Kinshasa – Greenpeace on Tuesday urged oil majors to boycott a major auction of oil and gas drilling rights in Democratic Republic of Congo, including in a rainforest region it dubbed a “carbon bomb.”
Twenty-seven blocks for oil exploration and three for gas will be auctioned off from July 28, the minister for hydrocarbons, Didier Budimbu, announced late on Monday.
Of the 27 oil blocks, three are located on the coast of the Congo River basin and nine in the huge “central basin” rainforest region in the west of the country.
The other 15 are in the east of the country, near the Albert and Tanganyika great lakes.
The auction “exposes Congolese people to corruption, violence, and poverty that inevitably come with the curse of oil”, said Irene Wabiwa, head of Greenpeace Africa’s Congo forest campaign.
Greenpeace especially warned about plans to drill in the central basin, in blocs that it said overlapped peatlands and several protected areas.
The soil is a “carbon bomb” that if disturbed could release vast amounts of heat-trapping gas, amplifying global warming and accelerating climate change, Greenpeace said.
The government says it gave the go-ahead after environmental impact studies were carried out.
The auction comes after the government reached a deal in February with Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler, paying him two billion dollars for his rights over two blocks at Lake Albert.
In April, it announced it would go ahead with the auction.
Scientists have sounded several warnings about DR Congo’s peatlands, which comprises an area about the size of England.
Across the entirety of the basin, around 30 billion tonnes of carbon are stored, researchers estimated in a study in Nature in 2016. The figure is roughly equivalent to three years of global emission.