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  • Writer's pictureJeannette De Wyze

Oil Exploration in the Congo Rainforest

An Update

By Jeannette De Wyze

RELATED POST: Oil Exploration: A Looming Threat in Congo

Bonobo sits among the trees in the Congo Rainforest.
A rewilded bonobo relaxes in the wilds of Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve, a peat-rich protected area in the Congo Rainforest.

It’s too early to celebrate, but some rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has gotten at least a temporary reprieve.

Government officials had said last year they would announce in January 2023 which oil companies would be bidding on leases to drill in 27 sensitive areas. The proposed leases had sent tremors through the global conservation community when the drilling plans were disclosed last spring and expanded a few months later.

The affected areas include an estimated 27.7 million acres of rainforest and 2.5 million acres of carbon-rich peatland, a vital store of carbon. The areas are the home to a rich community of wildlife, including the critically endangered bonobos.

Bonobos rest in tree in the DR Congo
Rewilded bonobos Lisala and her son Lokumu at Ekolo.

Congolese leaders defended the move as important for improving the lives of their citizens, who rank among the poorest in the world. But a number of observers pointed out that hydrocarbon extraction in African nations has devastated the environment while benefiting only wealthy individuals and corporations.

As the months went by, Greenpeace Africa reportedly compiled a list of at least 11 oil companies including Total, Eni, Shell, and Exxon Mobil that had indicated they were