They Mix Like Oil and Minerals: The Conflict Between SOCO and Congo


Gorilla Keeper Bauma, Virunga National Park

The issue of conflict minerals and oil is bigger than most believe. The conflict involves jobs, which may leave people jobless and homeless. SOCO International, an oil and gas exploration company based in London, England, desires to drill into the oil deposits found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The amount of oil found in this region is said to be worth millions of dollars, if not billions. The region consists of Lake Edward, the city of Goma, the volcanic region home to the only mountain gorillas in the world, who live in Virunga National Park. Virunga, has been open since 1925 and has become home to a whole world of animals. Within this national park are the volcanoes where the endangered Silverback Gorillas live. Virunga wants to try and stop oil extraction in hopes to preserve the land and the wildlife, but the Congolese government and SOCO believe oil drilling will help a poor country get wealthier.

Less than 790 mountain gorillas are left in the world and can only be found on the eleven volcanoes in the region. Even having knowledge of this, SOCO is still determined to frack oil. If SOCO drills and/or fracks the oil found under Lake Edward, fisherman of Goma will lose their jobs, a city’s source of food, and a clean water resource. 60,000 citizens of Goma have been displaced, fleeing due to a recent M23 rebel attack, in attempt to take over Virunga. Many were injured or fatally wounded during the attack. If oil is spilled the oil will not only harm the ecosystem but will also affect areas as far as Spain, for Lake Edward feeds the Nile. Goma citizens refuse to leave and frankly don’t want to for they know that they will lose everything.

In 1994, the Rwandan Genocide left thousands of Hutu refugees who had fled to the Congo for safety. Militia groups formed such as the FDLR and FDLA, and M23. Though the FDLA and FDLR are more involved in the extraction of conflict minerals such as uranium, which is found in the Congo.

The M23 consists of Congolese and Rwandan refugees working closely with SOCO, who hires members of the M23 to enter Virunga and poach animals as well as gain entrance to the park. The poaching is an act to try and evict the park rangers guarding Virunga. Rebel groups sell the animals and ivory for their own profit. SOCO is giving the M23 money to attack the park and invade villages such as Goma.The park’s rangers risk their lives everyday to protect the wildlife. Mr. Emmanuel de Merode, Director of Virunga National Park, has been shot and nearly died recently. To make matters worse, the Congolese government supports extracting the oil deposits in hope of “helping the country’s current economic situation.” Rumors and history of corrupt government officials make the Congo’s citizens wary. Natives don’t want SOCO to extract oil. Congolese, who are still recovering from the aftermath of 1994, are aware they will lose their country’s natural beauty if they submit to SOCO. Wild life has slowly started to rejuvenate. Mr. de Merode and his park rangers, is said to be the only person standing between SOCO and the extraction of oil. Cases of natives who have protested have been beaten by government soldiers and park wardens have been kidnapped and tortured. SOCO isn’t leaving Virunga in the near future, because other oil companies have become interested in the surrounding region where other oil deposits have been found.


During the Netflix documentary film Virunga, SOCO was exposed about their doings with the M23 and efforts against the park. Even though the film has clean and clear footage and recordings of corporate wrongdoing, SOCO is still fighting for the oil, denying its operations in the park are illegal. SOCO claims it is abiding by the law. SOCO denies that they have broken into the park stating that the guards were not present. The company also states that they only wish to do business with Virunga, while keeping the safety of the people and the animals.

Lets help save Virunga and save the gorillas!!!

Virunga Documentary’s Website:

Virunga National Park’s Website:

Donations through WWF:

Adopt a Gorilla through WWF:

Donations to Virunga:

Examples of what your money can do in Virunga:

$8.00 – A pair of new boots for a ranger

$16.00 – Funds a ranger to provide 24-hour protection for an elephant herd

$30.00 – One month of support to widow and children of a fallen ranger

$50.00 – One month of health coverage for a ranger and family

$100.00 – One week-long gorilla protection patrol

$150.00 – Funds the construction of electric fence segment that prevents human/wildlife conflict