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Primates influence investment decisions

13 February 2015


Threatening or threatened? A mountain gorilla in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Threatening or threatened? A mountain gorilla in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo

THE Church of England may sell its £2.8-million investment in a British oil-exploration firm, after failing to secure assurances about its operations in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has taken the unusual step of issuing a formal statement about its dealings with the oil- and gas-exploration company SOCO International.

The volcanoes and rain forest of Virunga are a World Heritage site, and are home to about half of the globe's increasingly rare mountain gorilla population. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is leading an international campaign to prevent its commercial exploitation.

SOCO's activities, which included a seismic survey, feature in the documentary film Virunga, backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, currently in the running for the best-documentary Oscar later this month.

The EIAG said that it had "raised serious concerns about the company's determination to satisfactorily address, in an open and transparent manner, allegations concerning the operations of SOCO in and around the Virunga National Park. These allegations are of a serious nature, and require a response from the Board that urgently seeks to restore the confidence of shareholders. We find the efforts of the company to date have not been sufficient."

SOCO said that it did not comment on investors or investors' decisions, but its website states that it has "publicly stated since 2011 that it will never seek to have operations in the mountain-gorilla habitat, the Virunga volcanoes, or the Virunga equatorial rain-forest, and this remains the company's position."

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