Cairn and Kosmos applying for new license in occupied Western Sahara

Scotland's Cairn Energy states that its joint venture with American firm Kosmos Energy has dropped the oil exploration licence in occupied Western Sahara, but ... that it is now reapplying for part of the very same area.
Published: 18.04 - 2016 14:04Printer version    
Photo above; Saharawi refugees protesting against Cairn's involvement in their occupied homeland, around the time of Scotland's referendum on independence in September 2014.

In its Annual Report for 2015, Scottish oil company Cairn Energy stated that "the Cap Boujdour licence is in the process of relinquishment, though the joint-venture is looking to enter into a new exploration licence on the acreage". (p. 33)

That joint-venture ties Cairn to Kosmos Energy, a Texas based oil company. Together, Cairn and Kosmos have undertaken the first ever offshore well-drilling in occupied Western Sahara in March 2015. A highly controversial operation, as the joint-venture had obtained its licence to the Boujdour block from the Moroccan government, which has no mandate to administer Western Sahara. In spite thereof, Morocco continues to occupy a large part of what is often referred to as Africa's last colony, and proceeds to sell of its resources for its own benefit.

However, the result of that first exploratory drilling operation wasn't all too promising. "The CB-1 well drilled in Cap Boujdour, encountered hydrocarbons but the discovery was non-commercial and the well was plugged and abandoned in Q1 2015", Cairn's annual report reads on page 31. "The well, which completed in March 2015 was unsuccessful with total costs relating to the licence of US$82m charged to the Income Statement, US$35m in 2015 and US$47m in 2014", the report continues (p.33).

cairn_2014-2015_380.jpgNevertheless, Cairn and Kosmos are reapplying for a next exploration licence on the very same acreage. "Discussions are ongoing with Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) for a new Boujdour Maritime contract area offshore Western Sahara (Kosmos Operator 55% WI, ONHYM 25% WI, Cairn 20% WI)", it says on p. 31 of Cairn's annual report.

Just as in the annual report of the year before, Cairn again totally fails to understand the basic principles of the conflict of Western Sahara. Throughout its annual report, Cairn refers to the block as lying within "Morocco", which is not the case. Cairn has adapted all maps from last year's report, by removing all international borders between Western Sahara and the neighbouring countries. The border to Morocco was removed last year. The company keeps refering to "Morocco" to describe the location of their block.

"We are calling on shareholders to engage with Cairn and Kosmos and urge the companies not to obtain a new licence", stated Joanna Allan, chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch.

"The approach of Cairn and Kosmos is grotesquely unethical. We urge all investors to look at the UN document that Kosmos and Cairn are using to try to legitimize their actions. The two companies are manifestly misrepresenting what the UN has concluded on the matter", stated Allan.  

Cairn also states that the licences it held for oil blocks offshore Morocco proper, the so-called Foum Draa and Juby Maritime licences, were relinquished during the third and fourth quarter of 2015. So today, the only business interest Cairn has with the Moroccan government, relates to a territory that is not in Morocco.

The CEO of the company claims that Cairn "will continue to uphold and support the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact".

WSRW sent a letter to Cairn on 19 February 2014 and on 13 April 2016. The company has not yet responded.

Cairn's 2015 annual report can also be downloaded here.

UPDATE, 19. April 08:20. Kosmos Energy stated to Upstream Online on 15 April that “We are far beyond applying for a new licence. We’re actually deep in negotiations for a new agreement called Boujdour Maritime that covers nearly the same area (as Cap Boujdour).”

Failing in geography
Several years after Cairn entered into the block in Western Sahara, the company still cannot place their exploratory well in the right country. Their well was not drilled in Morocco. In fact, Morocco has not even laid a maritime claim over the area where the well is located. Cairn also claims to be following the UN on the topic, by misrepresenting the conclusion of a UN legal opinion on the matter.

The below segments are all from Cairn's recently published annual report for 2015.






07.12 - 2017 / 07.12 - 2017Siemens: the Moroccan king's wind turbine supplier in Western Sahara
05.12 - 2017 / 13.11 - 2017EU fish support to Morocco builds Western Sahara fish industry
21.11 - 2017 / 11.11 - 2017Paradise Papers: New light on Glencore structure
10.11 - 2017 / 27.08 - 2010Support Western Sahara Resource Watch
31.10 - 2017 / 12.10 - 2017Moroccan wind energy in occupied Western Sahara passing 40%
31.10 - 2017 / 31.10 - 2017Interview with Jytte Guteland: 1 of 5 MEPs evicted from Western Sahara
30.10 - 2017 / 10.10 - 2017UK company building wind park in occupied Western Sahara
26.10 - 2017 / 26.10 - 2017Kosmos surveying oil potential near Dakhla again?
24.10 - 2017 / 24.10 - 2017EU Parliament approves Morocco aviation deal including Western Sahara
24.10 - 2017 / 24.10 - 2017EU-Morocco trade talks: replacing Saharawis with Moroccans
23.10 - 2017 / 20.10 - 2017Imminent vote on EU-Morocco aviation deal, covering Western Sahara
11.10 - 2017 / 10.10 - 2017Wärtsilä to build power plant in occupied Western Sahara
09.10 - 2017 / 09.10 - 2017Morocco announces 500% increase of agriculture zone in occupied Dakhla
27.09 - 2017 / 26.09 - 2017EU appears clueless on import levels from Western Sahara
27.09 - 2017 / 25.09 - 2017New report: Sweden must advise companies on Western Sahara
01.09 - 2017 / 01.09 - 2017Saharawi organisations slam EU over trade talks with Morocco
19.07 - 2017 / 18.07 - 2017Civilian court follows military court against Saharawi activists
13.07 - 2017 / 13.07 - 2017Western Sahara has won its conflict cargo case in South Africa
10.07 - 2017 / 10.07 - 2017Siemens inconsistently supporting occupations
05.07 - 2017 / 05.07 - 2017Sign up! Stop EU trade talks with Morocco regarding Western Sahara!


Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.
The Western Sahara oil curse


Big oil’s interest in occupied Western Sahara has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Some companies are now drilling, in complete disregard of international law and the Saharawi people’s rights. Here’s what you need to know. News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

Register for our English newsletter:

These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy