KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — The Congo government authorizes the British firm SOCO to explore for oil in Virunga National Park in North Kivu province.
Minister of Hydrocarbons Crispin Atama Tabe told The Associated Press that national economic interests take precedence over environmental considerations in Virunga, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Atama Tabe said that the exploration could take one to two years. He asserted that oil production could improve peace and security on volatile northeastern Congo.
The Minister of Environment and Tourism Bavo Nsamputu refused to comment on the news.
The permission to explore for oil in Virunga is in contrast to the environment minister's decision in March 2011 to suspend oil exploration in Block 5 of the Albertine Graben area of Virunga park that is home to more than 200 gorillas.