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
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
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