The Irish firm that looks for oil in occupied Western Sahara, San Leon Energy, is every year closer to drilling in the territory.
San Leon works in total disregard of the UN legal advice and of the wishes of the people living in the occupied territory. The firm has signed agreements with the Moroccan government for oil exploration on the occupied land. The company has, however, never consulted representatives of the Saharawis, which the UN prescribes.
In a presentation from mid March 2010, written by San Leon’s CEO Phil Thompson, the firm states that they have plans to soon carry out seismic surveys in both their blocks in occupied Western Sahara. Next year they will drill.
For the Zag basin, in the north east part of Western Sahara, the company states to acquire 500 km of 2D seismic in the 3rd quarter of 2010, proceeding with drilling first well in 2011. The firm estimates the gas reserves in Zag to be more than 10 trillion cubic feet, and the oil reserves at 500 million barrels.
It also states that a gas discovery has been made to the south of the Zag block, basically on the border between the Moroccan controlled and Polisario controlled parts of Western Sahara. It is not known when and by whom this finding was done.
For the Tarfaya block in the area around El Aaiun, San Leon mentions that it plans to acquire 500 km of 2D seismic in 4th quarter or 2010, proceeding with drilling in 2011. It states that 2,293 km of 2D is already made.
San Leon also states it plans first testing of production of oil at Tarfaya later this year, or in 2011.
Interestingly, San Leon also mentioned an oil discovery made by the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM to the south of Boujdour.
The presentation was written few days after one of many peaceful Saharawi demonstrations were attacked by Moroccan police. Meriem Mghizlat (right) was beaten by the police, together with a dozen other Saharawi in a demonstration for the respect of their right to self-determination. Meriem lives exactly on the block where San Leon has its licence, and where the firm plans to look for oil in partnership with the occupying power.
No states have recognised the Moroccan claims to Western Sahara, which have even been rejected by the International Court of Justice. More than 100 resolutions from the UN demand self-determination for the Saharawi people, a right which also covers the territory's natural resources.
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.
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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.