The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced that oil and gas permits at Virunga Park, which is home to endangered gorillas, will be up for auction.
The DRC’s Ministry of Hydrocarbon revealed that a total of 27 oil and 3 gas blocks will be put up for auction, up from the 16 blocks that the nation first agreed to in May.
A large percentage of the mining blocks that will be put up for auction lies in the heart of Virunga Park, a sanctuary for critically endangered gorillas and the largest tropical peatlands in the world.
Despite pleas from several climate change activists, the DRC government defended its decision to auction the mining blocks by claiming that it would benefit the Congolese population.
Hydrocarbon Minister Didier Budimbu told the British news agency the Guardian that funding for the oil and gas projects was essential for both the preservation of the Congo Basin forest and the nation’s economic growth.
“We have a primary responsibility towards Congolese taxpayers who, for the most part, live in conditions of extreme precariousness and poverty, and aspire to a socio-economic wellbeing that oil exploitation is likely to provide for them,” said Budimbu.
The Hydrocarbon Ministry declared that both domestic and foreign bids are welcome.
“Whether you are oil or gas operators, potential investors or members of the government, operating nationally or internationally, you are welcome!” wrote the Hydrocarbon Ministry.
More than half of the world’s mountain gorillas live in Virunga Park, which is located in the central African mountains. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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