Kinshasa, Jan. 17. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced on Monday the delivery of new natural gas exploitation licenses in three areas of Lake Kivu (east) to a Canadian and two American companies, according to local media.
The companies that will be able to exploit this natural gas are the American Symbion Power & Red and Winds Exploration and Production LLC, and the Canadian Alfajiri Energy Corporation, according to the Congolese Minister of Hydrocarbons, Didier Budimbu, through a very brief communiqué.
Thus, the DRC expects to become a natural gas producer by 2024, Budimbu said.
Neighboring Rwanda, with which the DRC shares the waters of Lake Kivu, is already exploiting the huge quantities of methane beneath the lake.
These newly awarded blocks of land were part of an auction launched by the Congolese government on July 18, when the country's authorities announced the bidding of thirty blocks of land equivalent to more than 240,000 square kilometers to exploit oil and gas.
The U.S. government and several environmental and human rights groups criticized this move, since at least nine of these blocks overlap protected natural areas, and others are located in areas of immense environmental value for their carbon sequestration capacity.
Environmental associations believe that the new oil and gas developments endanger the forests of the Congo River Basin, the second largest rainforest on the planet and home to more than 600 species of trees and 10,000 species of animals.
Apart from oil and gas, the DRC has some of the world's largest deposits of cobalt, copper, gold, diamonds and coltan, among other minerals.
However, according to data collected by the World Bank, around 73% of the Congolese population - some 60 million people - are forced to live on less than 1.90 dollars (1.85 euros at the current exchange rate) per day, making this country one of the poorest in the world. EFE