March 1, 2012 / 6:52 PM / 7 years ago

Soco to survey Congo oil block in environment row

KINSHASA, March 1 (Reuters) - British oil firm Soco International said on Thursday it has been given permission to carry out aerial surveys of a Congolese oil block where exploration was suspended last year due to concerns over environmental damage.

Soco has rights to Block 5 but exploration has been halted as the block sits partially in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, which is Africa’s oldest and home to some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas.

“We’re delighted to have clearance to proceed with the aerial survey over Block V,” Soco’s deputy CEO Roger Cagle told Reuters by email from London.

Cagle added that work could begin in the second quarter of the year.

The government was not immediately available for comment.

Congo’s government last year suspended exploration after pressure from conservation groups and the World Bank. The company says it would have a beneficial impact on the area. (Reporting by Jonny Hogg; editing by David Lewis and Keiron Henderson)

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