An oil company owned by Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler said on Thursday it had discovered around 3 billion barrels of oil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an amount similar to the proven reserves of oil producers Britain and South Sudan.
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The crude was discovered around Lake Albert on Congo’s eastern border with Uganda, Oil of DRCongo said in a statement. An analysis of seismic survey data “indicates around 3 billion barrels of oil in place,” it said, although it was not yet clear what portion was recoverable. Industry sources say the volumes should be considered provisional and point to the difficulty of exporting the oil from eastern Congo, a region hundreds of kilometers from export points on the shores of the Indian and Atlantic oceans.
“These are very positive results from our extensive seismic campaign,” said Giuseppe Ciccarelli, Oil of DRCongo’s CEO. “We continue to believe the project has the potential to provide significant revenues and multiple other benefits to the people of [Congo].”
Oil of DRCongo operates blocks one and two at Lake Albert, on behalf of Foxwhelp and Caprikat, both subsidiaries of Gertler’s Netherlands-based company Fleurette, which has several interests in Congo’s mining sector.
Public interest groups such as Global Witness say Gertler, an influential figure in Congo with close ties to President Joseph Kabila’s government, received concessions at low prices before selling them on for large profits, particularly in a series of mining deals between 2010 and 2012. In January, Reuters revealed that Gertler had sold one of his Congo-based oil companies, Nessergy Ltd., to the government for $150 million – 300 times the amount paid for the oil rights.
Gertler, who has joint Israeli and Congolese citizenship and says his firm has invested more than $7 billion in the local economy, vigorously denies receiving favorable deals at knockdown prices. A spokesman said at the time that the Nessergy rights had dramatically increased in value since they were obtained in 2006, partly due to the discovery of significant nearby oil fields.