The UN stated in 2002 that it would be in violation of international law to carry out oil search in Western Sahara if the Saharawi people were not consulted.
Without taking the people into account, the UK minor oil firm Longreach Oil & Gas has in partnership with San Leon Energy now started seismic surveys in the so-called Zag block on the north eastern section of occupied Western Sahara.
The seismic programme of the UK/Irish firms in 2011 started already this summer on the neighbouring Tarfaya block, probably in a section of Tarfaya located in Morocco proper. On 21 September 2011, the seismic was completed in Tarfaya, according to the new information from Longreach.
The interpretation of the seismic data was intially planned to be carried out by the London office of a Norwegian seismic services firm, Spectrum ASA. But when Norwegian media uncovered the Spectrum's involvement in the controversial assignment, the firm withdrew from the Longreach/San Leon assignment. Spectrum stated it would not undertake further work in the area.
With the departure of the UK/Norwegian subcontractor Spectrum, Longreach has had to find another partner to carry out the data interpretation of the infill seismic. In the meantime, the seismic studies themselves have continued. From what WSRW understands, the studies are done by San Leon's fully owned Polish/Dutch subsidiary Novaseis. The new document from Longreach reveals that the two partnering firms plan to carry out drilling in 2013.
The Zag block, where they announce seismic to have started, is located partially in the Morocco-controlled parts of Western Sahara, parts in the Polisario-controlled areas, and partially in Morocco proper.
The natural resources remain a central element of the UN peace talks. Yet Morocco is proceeding with the industry which the UN states is illegal. San Leon, being the operator of the Zag block, stated to Irish TV this summer that they do not neeed to consult with the Saharawi people. "They are not representative", stated the CEO of the firm, clearly ignoring the UN Legal Office.
The two companies are the only firms with licences onshore occupied Western Sahara. In addition, US firm, Kosmos Energy, holds a licence offshore the territory.
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.