KINSHASA, April 23 British oil company Soco
International will start seismic tests this weekend in
Democratic Republic of Congo's Lake Edward, an executive said on
Wednesday, despite campaigners' attempts to block exploration in
a world heritage site.
Conservation group WWF has called on Soco to withdraw from
its blocks in UNESCO-protected Virunga national park, saying oil
exploration is incompatible with world heritage status and would
damage the most bio-diverse park in Africa.
"The start date for seismic testing has been planned for
April 26 and will take about a month," said the executive in
Soco's management in Congo, who asked not to be identified.
In October, WWF made a complaint to the British government,
saying Soco had violated the business guidelines laid out by the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
In February, the British government's department responsible for
overseeing the OECD guidelines offered to mediate between the
WWF has warned that exploration teams could introduce
invasive plantlife to the park or disrupt its underground water
systems with drilling, with implications for wildlife and
The executive said Soco would employ the same seismic
surveying company and techniques as London-listed Tullow Oil
on the Ugandan side of Lake Albert, around 170 miles
(106 miles) north of Lake Edward.
SOCO would also use an environmentally sensitive technique
of placing the recorders on the lake bed, the executive added.
Congo's environment and oil ministers have said they wished
to establish the value of the oil in Virunga before deciding
whether to exploit it. WWF argues the park is worth more to
Congo as a world heritage site than as an oil source.
The poverty-stricken country - whose development has been
hindered by mismanagement, corruption and violence - is aiming
to increase oil production from just 25,000 barrels per day by
exploiting reserves under its soil in the east and offshore in
(Reporting By Peter Jones; Editing by Daniel Flynn and David