Oil companies and governments slammed over Virunga oil exploration
4 July 2012
The committee that overseas World Heritage sites has warned that proposed oil exploration in Virunga National Park in central Africa could cause serious harm - and has urged the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the oil companies involved to take action to halt it.
The World Heritage Committee, which has been holding its annual meeting in St Petersburg over the past week, has restated its view that oil development is incompatible with World Heritage status.
British oil company SOCO International has announced plans to begin aerial surveys to map oil deposits in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Virunga was declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. It’s recognised for its unique landscapes and rare animals, including critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Local residents have also expressed concern that pollution from SOCO’s exploration in Lake Edward could contaminate fishing waters where 30,000 people make their livelihoods.
The World Heritage Committee has said SOCO’s permits do not conform to the DRC’s international commitments, and has called on the DRC government to revoke permits granted to exploration companies.
SOCO and Total, the other oil company with interests in the park, were admonished by the committee for not joining other industry leaders in pledging to remain out of all World Heritage Sites.
The committee also called on the countries where the companies are headquartered to “ensure that petroleum and mining companies in their territory cause no damage to World Heritage properties.”
Read the position document on Virunga we presented to the World Heritage Committee
Find out more about Virunga National Park
Follow our blog posts on Virunga - including images of what SOCO has called a "burnt-out savannah"
See how you can help us protect endangered mountain gorillas
Sign the international petition demanding oil companies stay out of Virunga (in French)