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Republic of Congo: A new report reveals that the world’s largest tropical peatlands are under threat from oil drilling - with company comments

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Article
28 February 2020

Congo oil project obtained by "corruption risk" magnate threatens climate-critical peatland forest

Author: Global Witness

One of the world’s biggest carbon sinks is at risk from oil exploration, a new report by Global Witness reveals. Drilling in climate-critical peatland forests in the Republic of Congo could pave the way to the release of billions of tonnes of carbon. Potential financiers of the project also risk being exposed to corruption and could be left empty handed...

In August 2019, a company controlled by one of Africa’s richest men, Claude Wilfrid Etoka, announced the discovery of a reportedly vast oil reserve in Republic of Congo. It is located in a region where in 2014 scientists discovered the existence of the world’s largest tropical peatlands, storing an estimated 30 billion tonnes of carbon – equivalent to three years’ worth of global fossil fuel emissions...Global Witness reveals that...this oil project poses a direct threat to these climate-critical peatlands. Its environmental impact study almost entirely predates the peatlands’ discovery and contains no analysis of the risk to peatlands from drilling...

“The Ngoki project is characterised by corruption risks and the potential to inflict irreversible environmental harm,” said Colin Robertson of Global Witness. “Its links to Congo’s ruling clan and a seemingly reckless handling of environmental issues mean any investor would run significant risks by backing this project.”...

“The Congo peatlands are the last place on Earth that extracting more fossil fuels should be considered. Oil majors, in particular Total and ENI, should publicly state that they will not invest in oil exploration anywhere in or around the Congo Basin peatlands. Banks should also refuse to finance any drilling there, and aid donors should insist no exploration occurs,” said Colin Robertson...

 

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Report
28 February 2020

What lies beneath: How an oil project linked to the Republic of Congo’s corrupt rulers was obtained by one of Africa’s richest men in questionable circumstances — imperilling climate-critical peatland forests

Author: Global Witness

The oil-rig looks incongruous on the banks of the River Likouala-aux-Herbes...which meanders towards the River Congo through savannah floodplains and swamp forests. This is a place roamed by endangered forest elephants and lowland gorillas, described by one travel guide as “literally one of the most wild and remote regions of the planet...”. Beneath the dark waters of...the Republic of Congo’s rulers claim there lies a vast oil reserve...But a wide-ranging investigation...sheds new light on this oil project. Global Witness can reveal serious corruption risks, environmental assessments that are completely unfit for purpose, and expose claims of vast oil reserves as seemingly hollow. Oil production in this region would not only be environmentally harmful, but an investment every bit as perilous as these crocodile-infested waters...

The oil strike was announced by a private Congolese company named Petroleum Exploration and Production Africa (PEPA). But this investigation has found that PEPA has strong links to the family of President Sassou-Nguesso... Willy Etoka [Claude Wilfrid who controls PEPA] denies having direct financial dealings with the president or his son. “I have friendships with the Nguesso family, that’s for sure,” he said in 2015, “but no business relationships.”...

Mr Etoka told Global Witness: “Compared to coastal oil operations, which can produce traces of marine pollution, oil exploration in the Cuvette presents no risk of environmental disturbance. “The president of the Republic of Congo, who is in charge of protecting the Congo Basin, would not have authorised us to explore for oil there, if there was any evidence of such risks.” Mr Etoka also said that the exploration was preceded by an environmental impact assessment, approved by Congo’s Environment Ministry, and that the peatlands were “outside” of the Ngoki oilfield...[Refers to Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo, Petroleum Exploration and Production Africa, Total, Eni, Shell, Glencore, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Gunvor, Pilatus Energy and JP Morgan].  

 

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