Congo Begins Auctioning 27 Oil Blocks

Licensing rights for 30 oil and gas blocks in the Democratic Republic of Congo went up for auction on Thursday, opening parts of the world’s second-biggest rainforest to drilling that could release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

President Felix Tshisekedi presided over the launch of bidding at a ceremony in the capital Kinshasa. Attendees included representatives from France’s TotalEnergies and several domestic companies, although spokeswoman from the French oil giant said the company would not participate in bidding.

“The launch of the tendering process… speaks to our desire to put our resource potential at the service of our country,” President Tshisekedi said, arguing that fossil fuel production would boost development in one of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is in a context where fossil fuels including crude oil and gas are at the centre of global issues of peace and stability because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.”

The President said modern drilling methods and tight regulation would minimise the ecological impact and denied that Congo was going back on commitments to protect its forests.

But environmental activists said drilling in the designated areas would inevitably have steep consequences. Several of the proposed oil blocks overlap with peatlands, swampy areas that hold billions of tonnes of carbon.