Minister José E.B Endundo said he would not allow the UK based company SOCO and Dominion to carry out any works within the park for now and said his government would initiate a thorough and transparent Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to decide whether such a project could be considered in one of the world's most precious and fragile nature parks.
Andrew McVey, Species Officer at WWF-UK, said: "We congratulate the DRC government on the approach they are taking and their desire to maintain the integrity of the National Park while recognising the needs of the region. Conducting a thorough and transparent Strategic Environmental Assessment should ensure that the desires of the oil companies are not placed ahead of the needs of the local people and wildlife. This is the first step in the process and we will remain engaged and vigilant."
WWF believes that smart and well-planned economic development is needed to help the country and its people. Illegal, poorly managed and non-transparent efforts will only aggrevate conflicts and undermine park management and the wellbeing of local communities.
Virunga National Park is Africa's first National Park, a World Heritage Site, and is renowned for its extremely high biodiversity. It is home to world-famous populations of mountain gorillas as well as important populations of elephant, chimpanzee and hippo. Company maps seen indicate SOCO, a UK-listed company had intended drilling works throughout the park. But the initial Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) has been rejected by the ministry which in the statement issued today labelled it premature and superficial"
WWF continues to call on the Congolese government to guarantee there will be no oil exploration in the park and asks the UK-listed company to respect the law and abandon the harmful exploration plans.