Today in Kinshasa, the Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism, Mr José E.B. Endundo, announced the issue of an open letter to the worldwide conservation community clarifying the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s position on the published intentions of a British oil company, SOCO International, to undertake oil exploration activities in Virunga National Park, a designated World Heritage Site.
In so doing, he has initiated a comprehensive, transparent and inclusive Strategic Environmental Assessment, SEA, to analyse the best options available to the Congolese People. The SEA will provide the necessary recommendations, frequently required by the ministry, to decide which of the social and economic benefits will ensure true development for the region and its people. The SEA will be conducted with support from a number of donors of public aid.
In his letter Mr Endundo states that his Ministry has taken “ …specific steps, which have led to the suspension of the given oil exploration activities. We have rejected the recommendations of an environmental impact assessment conducted by the oil company, Soco, which we consider premature, superficial and which does not conform to the standards which we would expect”.
The Minister has also confirmed that the senior management for Soco Oil had assured him that they " …will not attempt any prospection work in the park unless a positive consensus is achieved in their favour."
The letter published yesterday reflects two of the Minister for the Environment's main concerns, the rule of law and abiding by international commitments.