Soco Resumes Activities in Eastern Congo

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U.K.-based oil explorer, Soco International PLC (SIA.LN) has resumed exploration activities in eastern Congo, more than a year after it evacuated workers from its exploration camp in the country citing security concerns.

A company spokeswoman said Tuesday that Soco would take at least one month to complete seismic tests on Lake Edward, the first time such tests are being conducted on the Congolese side of the lake.

Soco becomes the latest company to start oil exploration activities on the Congolese-side of the oil-rich Lake Albertine rift, less than six months after United Nations peace keepers helped the Congolese army to defeat the M23 rebellion that had plagued resource-rich region since early 2012.

“Soco’s current seismic survey is actually the first to be conducted by Soco in the area” the spokeswoman said. “Soco has a small fly-camp presence in a village on the DRC side of the lake.”

Analysts say that the return of relative peace in eastern Congo is expected to trigger a spike in oil exploration activities over the next few years, as oil majors such as France’s Total SA and Chevron, as well as small operators like Soco and Oil of Congo, resume inactive licenses.

In September 2012, at the height of the M23 rebel insurgency, Soco evacuated scores of its workers from its exploration camps in Congo to Uganda.

Soco’s exploration license stretches into the UNESCO-protected Virunga national park and it has faced a number of hurdles in its attempts to explore for oil in the promising oil basin. In February, the U.K. government said it would mediate Soco’s argument with the World Wild Fund for Nature after the U.K.-based environmental group asked the oil firm to withdraw from the licenses WWF said the company’s planned exploration activities are in violation of the guidelines set out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Oil exploration companies have discovered at least 3.5 billion of crude on the Ugandan side of the rift basin and companies like Soco are hoping to make similar finds on the Congolese side of the rift.


Write to Nicholas Bariyo at nicholas.bariyo@wsj.com

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20140429-710411.html

 

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