Oil company, environmental group agree on Congo park plan

GENEVA – A London-based oil company has reached agreement with an environmental group that could prevent it from drilling for oil in a national park in Africa where 200 endangered mountain gorillas live.

SOCO International PLC said Wednesday in a joint statement with Switzerland-based WWF that it will not undertake exploratory drilling in Congo’s Virunga National Park, which is Africa’s oldest, unless the government and the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO agree it would not threaten the park’s world heritage status.

SOCO agreed to suspend exploration once it finishes seismic testing on Lake Edward and WWF pledged to drop a complaint that the oil company violates good-practice business guidelines set out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

SOCO denied allegations it had withheld information about the environmental risks of possibly drilling on a tract that overlaps with the park.