KINSHASA, June 20 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo
said exploration permits from companies controlled by Israeli
investor Dan Gertler for two huge oil concessions near the
eastern border with Uganda were no longer valid, but the
companies said they still held the rights.
Congo's hydrocarbons ministry said in a letter dated June 16
and reviewed by Reuters on Sunday that the permits granted to
two of Gertler's companies in 2010 for Blocks 1 and 2 near the
Ugandan border had expired.
The companies have not entered into production in either of
the two blocks, which are thought to contain potentially more
than a billion barrels of oil.
The letter, sent to Oil of DRCongo, which oversees Gertler's
oil interests in Congo, also said a production-sharing agreement
reached in 2010 was being ended. It asked the companies to
transfer all technical data and pay charges due under the
contract. It did not say how much was owed.
A spokesperson for Oil of DRCongo said the status of the
blocks could not be changed, because of a force majeure that was
declared last year due to the government's lack of progress in
securing a way to export the oil.
"The force majeure was subsequently confirmed in May 2021 by
the State Council and therefore remains in place until the
reasons for the force majeure are resolved, by law," the Oil of
DRCongo spokesperson said.
"Oil of DRCongo remains committed to working with all
parties to resolve the force majeure, identifying a competitive
evacuation system, and bringing these assets towards
The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Gertler and more than
30 of his businesses in December 2017 and June 2018, accusing
him of leveraging his friendship with former Congo President
Joseph Kabila to secure lucrative mining deals.
Gertler denies any wrongdoing.
Finding export routes from central Africa is a major
challenge to bringing oil projects in the Albertine Basin into
Neighboring Uganda, whose adjacent oil blocks are being
developed by France's Total and China National
Offshore Oil Corporation, signed a deal in April with
those companies and Tanzania to build a pipeline to the Indian
Ocean. Congo is not a part of the deal.
(Reporting by Hereward Holland
Editing by Aaron Ross, Raissa Kasolowsky and Peter Graff)