April 5, 2019 / 5:29 PM / 5 months ago

Democratic Republic of Congo plans oil licensing round this year

BRUSSELS, April 5 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo plans to launch a licensing round this year for more than 20 onshore oil and gas blocks, the oil ministry said on Friday, its first since adopting a new hydrocarbons code in 2015.

Congo, Africa's leading copper miner, has pumped just 25,000 barrels of oil per day for years despite sitting on up to 5 billion barrels of reserves.

The hydrocarbons code was meant to a revive the haphazardly regulated sector by imposing new transparency, such as requiring public tenders for exploration and exploitation permits.

Emmanuel Kayumba Banza-Mwana, a senior official in the oil ministry, told Reuters the government would open bids on blocks in the coastal basin along the Atlantic, the inland Cuvette Centrale and around Lake Tanganyika in the southeast.

The licensing round would still have to until President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, names a new government in the coming months, he said, speaking by telephone.

Anglo-French oil and gas company Perenco is Congo's only active producer. France's Total also holds an exploration permit near the eastern border with Uganda.

Government efforts to ramp up oil exploration have met resistance from environmentalists, who have objected to exploration inside protected national parks.

In December, former President Joseph Kabila awarded an oil drilling licence that overlaps with a wildlife-rich UNESCO world heritage site and forms part of the world's second largest rainforest.

Reporting by Giulia Paravicini Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Edmund Blair

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