Following the end of our contractual obligations to the Government of the DRC, we have not sought to renew our licence.
SOCO publicly set out its withdrawal programme from Block V in June 2014. In line with this public commitment, SOCO’s operations inside Virunga National Park ceased on 22 July 2014 and elsewhere in Block V on 11 August 2014. On 12 March 2015, SOCO committed to no further involvement in Block V and stated in its financial results announcement that all costs incurred on Block V to date and any further costs anticipated in the course of 2015 have been written off as exploration expense in 2014. In June 2015, SOCO reiterated its commitment to leave Block V, stating that the timeline for this was tied to the Company's contractual obligations in DRC.
SOCO's humanitarian aid, provided in medical, water purification and communications facilities, has been transferred to the local communities for the benefit of the people.
No exploration drilling has taken place in Block V. No drilling commitment has ever been made and no oil exploitation plans exist for Block V. Block V is not located within the mountainous Mikeno Sector, home to the famous Mountain Gorillas. SOCO has publicly stated since 2011 that it would never seek to have operations in the Mountain Gorilla habitat, the Virunga Volcanoes or the Virunga equatorial rainforest.
Prior to August 2014, the extent of SOCO’s operational activity within Virunga National Park had been:
The seismic survey – main facts:
The lake bathymetry study mapped the shaped of the lake floor. The study was conducted by Tesla during November 2013 and was completed without incident.
In May 2013, ICCN (the park wardens' organisation which manages the Virunga National Park) confirms its facilitation of the proposed environmental baseline studies
First studies were fish and mollusc baseline studies on Lake Edward, followed by a baseline study of hippopotami.
The studies were conducted on behalf of SOCO by Okapi Environment Conseil Sprl, a respected Congolese consulting firm which specialises in environmental and social evaluations.
The studies respond to concerns that had been expressed regarding the impact of potential future exploration activities in the region.
The ICCN (the park wardens' organisation which manages the Virunga National Park) and the Congo Environmental Studies Group were formal co-collaborators in determining which environmental baseline studies should be carried out.
SOCO’s social programmes were launched at Nyakakoma in August. The launch was a significant event for the communities around Lake Edward as the social programmes had been approved by the DRC national government and had wide support from the local communities and local authorities.
The social programmes include
The first of the planned scientific studies was to gather an aeromagnetic gravity data through an aerial survey. This remained postposed since 2012 due to the security status in North Kivu and currently there are no plans to resume.
SOCO commenced a programme of visiting local communities on and near the shores of Lake Edward to better understand their needs and explain our operations in their area
Accompanying SOCO on these visits were ICCN (the park wardens' organisation which manages the Virunga National Park) in their capacity as independent monitors of SOCO’s activities.
The programme ceased for a number of weeks due to the security uprising in North Kivu, but was later resumed and, overall, included more than 10 community meetings to which the response was very positive.
SOCO commenced preparation for an aerial survey to be conducted from its base camp at Ishahsa on the DRC border.
As security tensions increased during the latter half of 2012, SOCO relocated its base camp to Kihihi on the Ugandan side of the border and postponed the aerial survey.
ICCN is the Park Wardens' organisation which manages the Virunga National Park
Following the DRC Government’s acceptance of the PAR in September, an Environmental Acceptability Certificate was issued to SOCO by the DRC Ministry of the Environment Conservation Nature and Tourism.
The Certificate granted SOCO permission to conduct an aerial survey over Lake Edward and the adjacent lowland savannah.
The terms of the Certificate included:
The Committee comprises delegates from the Ministry of the Environment Conservation Nature and Tourism, ICCN (the Park Wardens' organisation which manages the Virunga National Park) and GEEC.
The main objective of the assessment was to identify the potential impacts of early phase exploration activities and to propose measures to mitigate, control and track such impacts.
Amongst the many considerations, the assessment took into account the history of the area, its environmental significance, the demographics and its socioeconomics, including the importance of fishing and agriculture to local livelihoods.
The first document submitted to the DRC Government was the environmental impact assessment and it was initially rejected this reason; SOCO later submitted a document that combined the environmental and social impact assessments which was accepted in September 2011.
The DRC Government retains title over this document and accordingly it has not been published by SOCO.
The SEE covers the Virunga National Park and Block V and includes scientific studies to assess the region’s petroleum resource potential.
The SEE forms the context for SOCO’s activities and permits.
On 8 August 2012 the DRC Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, Nature and Tourism wrote to UNESCO to describe the context for SOCO's activities within the SEE. This is available (in French) on the Ministry website(http://www.mecnt.cd).
2006: SOCO signs a Production Sharing Contract (“PSC”) with the DRC Government
2010: The PSC is ratified by DRC Presidential Decree, the final step in the licensing process. The Presidential Decree was announced in the DRC's Official Gazette