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11 Jun 2014

John Vidal, The Guardian

Soco halts oil exploration in Africa's Virunga national park [Dem. Rep. of Congo]

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Conservationists have claimed one of their greatest successes in recent years following the unexpected decision by British oil company Soco to stop exploring in the Virunga world heritage site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)...The decision to pull out of Virunga national park follows legal mediation...with WWF, but Soco is believed to have ultimately bowed to pressure from the British government, Unesco and high-profile individuals...All condemned oil exploration in what is considered one of the world's most volatile regions..."If free from the threat of oil, Virunga can be a source of hope for the people of the DRC. This park can become a leading economic driver for its communities", said Raymond Lumbuenamo, country director of WWF-Congo DRC..."Now is the time for the DRC government to reaffirm its conviction that Virunga has outstanding universal value for all humanity – by cancelling all oil concessions that overlap the park", said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF UK...Soco said it would continue its social investment projects in the area, including road upgrades, medical programmes and mobile phone masts. "Soco will honour commitments we have made to local inhabitants to continue with our social programmes as long as we hold rights to the Block V licence", said the company...[Refers to Total].