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DRC Locals Resist Government Oil, Gas Auction

File – President Felix Tshisekedi accompanied by the Minister of Hydrocarbons in attendance of the launch of a tender to award oil block operating contracts, July, 28, 2022

Congolese environmental experts say the auctioning of oil and gas blocks in the central African nation has stirred resistance among locals who are concerned over damage to their homes and large swarths of forest.

Environmental groups operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo are questioning a July decision by President Felix Tshisekedi’s administration to put up 30 oil and gas blocks for auction, of which 13 overlap into protected areas and national parks.

Tal Harris, the spokesperson for Greenpeace, says the auction will have negative environmental and health implications on locals.

“Small communities of indigenous people will inevitably be impacted,” said Harris, adding, “the Twa and Mbuti people would be especially at risk of waterborne diseases and pollution if the forests are transformed for drilling.”

Environmental activists support Harris’ sentiments and further highlight that 18 of the proposed oil blocks are at risk if hostile relations between Congo and Rwanda worsen due to their location.

Simon Counsell, the spokesperson for Survival International, an indigenous rights charity, says a recent law which was passed before the auction was announced, calls for government consultations with indigenous communities.

“What do the people stand to benefit from these 30 oil and gas concessions?” questioned Counsell.

Congolese officials say the auctioning process is in line with national development plans and programs.

Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, Congo's senior climate negotiator says drilling will be conducted using methods that minimize environmental impacts.

“The auctioning process intends to scrupulously respect all Congolese laws and regulations,” said Mpanu-Mpanu, adding, “this will adhere to the most rigorous international standards.”