British oil firm SOCO International said on Tuesday it no longer holds the exploration license for a block that falls partly within Africa’s oldest national park, the subject of heated debate over environmental degradation last year, Reuters reported.
SOCO conducted seismic testing last year on Block V, about half of which lies within the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is home to more than 200 mammal species, including the endangered mountain gorilla.
SOCO signed a production sharing agreement with the DRC government in 2006, but stopped operations last year after environmentalists protested about the impact on endangered species and their habitats.
The company said it had reached an agreement with conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature to halt work in the park, home to mountain gorillas, a critically endangered species, according to UPI.com.
Virunga, an award-winning documentary, showcases how the work of poachers, along with oil interests and conflict, have threatened the habitat and the survival of the mountain gorillas. The film raises questions about SOCO’s transparency in the region, questions the company has criticized.