Impacts of oil exploration in an area of the Virunga National Park in the DRC
Lead NCPUnited Kingdom
Supporting NCP(s)None Selected
DescriptionSpecific instance notified by the NGO WWF International regarding the activities of SOCO International PLC operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Theme(s)Environment, General policies, Human rights
Date7 Oct 2013
Host country(ies)Democratic Republic of the Congo
Industry sectorMining and quarrying

Read the initial assessment issued by the UK NCP - February 2014

Read the final statement issued by the UK NCP concluding the specific instance - 15 July 2014

In October 2013, the UK NCP received a request for review from the NGO WWF International alleging that SOCO International PLC had breached the general policies, human rights, and environment provisions of the Guidelines by its oil exploration in an area of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). More specifically, the NGO alleged that oil exploration was in conflict with international agreements – particularly regarding the Park’s status as a World Heritage site – and DRC law and posed risks to the local environment and local communities dependent upon the surrounding ecosystem. SOCO, while denying the allegations, welcomed constructive dialogue with WWF. SOCO stated that its activities were still limited to environmental and social studies and social programmes, including a seismic survey on behalf of the DRC government, rather than actual oil exploration.

Upon completing the initial assessment in February 2014, the UK NCP found that SOCO had not met several obligations as outlined by the environmental provisions of the Guidelines. Further, the NCP determined dialogue regarding the level of SOCO’s human rights due diligence appropriate to the context of conflict-affected DRC would be worthwhile, as well as the extent to which SOCO informs stakeholders about the results of its environmental impact assessment.  

Based on these findings, the UK NCP offered its good offices to the parties to assist in mediation and conciliation on the issues. With the NCP’s assistance, the parties reached an agreement in June 2014. SOCO agreed with WWF in a joint statement to refrain from any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga National Park for as long as UNESCO and the DRC government view such activities as incompatible with the Park’s World Heritage Status. SOCO will complete its current seismic survey and will honour its commitments to local inhabitants to continue its social programmes as long as the company holds rights to the Block V license. After this outcome the NCP concluded the specific instance and issued a final statement.