Soco set to begin seismic testing in controversial Congo’s Virunga Park

Soco International will start seismic tests in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lake Edward amid widespread protests by environmentalists who are against exploration at the Virunga park home to the endangered mountain Gorillas and a world heritage site.

According to one of Soco’s managers in Congo Roger Cagle seismic testing is scheduled to start this Saturday.

“The start date for seismic testing has been planned for April 26 and will take about a month,” Roger Cagle, one of Soco’s managers in Congo told Reuters.

Cagle says the British company will be contracting the same seismic surveying company and techniques in the Lake Albert region in Uganda.

Cagle adds that Soco will utilize an environmentally sensitive technique of placing the recorders on the lake bed.

Conservation groups such as the WWF however insist that any exploitation will have effects on the environment of Africa’s most bio-diverse park and on the world heritage status terming the oil company’s plans as irresponsible.

“We believe the start of seismic testing shows that Soco intends to exploit oil in Virunga,” said Abraham in an emailed statement. “It’s impossible to guarantee oil extraction anywhere without pollution, let alone in a place as fragile as this.” WWF’s global campaigns manager Zach Abraham told Reuters.

Among complaints that the WWF has includes that exploration in the park would introduce invasive plant life and disrupt its underground water systems by drilling, with implications for wildlife and habitats.

Congo on its part wants to increase its daily output of oil from just 25,000 barrels by establishing new reserves under its territory.

In February WWF  had said it was making progress in its bid to block a proposal to dig for oil in a national park in Africa where 200 gorillas live with the British government backing some of the concerns raised by the organization over the human rights and environmental record of London-based SOCO International PLC in Congo’s Virunga National Park.

According to the WWF, SOCO has “breached the most respected global corporate social responsibility standards in its pursuit of oil” and has violated good-practice business guidelines set out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

WWF claims that SOCO has intimidated, unlawfully detained activists and withheld information about the environmental and social risks of its activities.

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