The Democratic Republic of Congo will allow exploration work inside Africa's oldest national park if significant oil deposits are found there, the country's hydrocarbons minister said on Saturday.
Congo is keen to expand its underdeveloped oil sector, which currently produces only 26,000 barrels a day despite oil-rich areas in both the east and west of the country.
British oil company Soco International was earlier this year given permission to carry out aerial surveys on Block 5, a block of land near the border with Uganda, but the move has faced fierce opposition from environmental groups.
Most of the concession lies within Virunga National Park, one of Africa's most biodiverse areas, and a last refuge for the region's famous mountain gorillas.
"The DRC has the right to know what resources it has under the earth, even if it's in the park or the forest, anywhere," minister Crispin Atama Tabe told Reuters in an interview.
Climate Ark users agree to the site disclaimer as a condition for use.