Chinese company BGP affirms to WSRW undertaking seabed research on behalf of French oil firm Total. This article has been updated: Seismic study to end 30 March 2013.
"We respectively advise that the BGP Prospector is carrying out a 3D seismic reconnaissance survey ultimately on behalf of Office National Des Hydrocarbures Et Des Mines (ONHYM) and the Company TOTAL, under permissions granted by ONHYM. The seismic data acquired pursuant to these activities will accordingly be owned by ONHYM", BGP wrote in a letter to WSRW, 5 March 2013.
The statement came as a reponse to a letter from WSRW of 6 December 2012, imploring the company to explain its research vessel's presence off Dakhla, occupied Western Sahara. WSRW also asked the company then to immediately terminate its activities in waters of the territory.
Their answer was sent now at a time when it seems the operations could have terminated. Their research vessel 'BGP Prospector' has not been noticed in the area since 26 February 2013. [WSRW update, 12.03.2013: This information about ending of BGP's operations in Western Sahara is incorrect. The seismic study is still ongoing, and is planned to terminate on 30 March 2013]
WSRW has been observing the BGP Prospector off Dakhla since the end of October 2012. Only a few days before, WSRW had discovered that Total had obtained a reconnaissance license for that precise area.
BGP is a subsidiary of the Chinese state oil company CNPC. The letter from BGP did not carry letter head, nor name of director signing on behalf of the organisation, but was sent to WSRW from the email account of the BGP, with copy to the mother company CNPC.
Total has not answered requests from WSRW regarding the operations offshore the occupied territory.
Western Sahara Resource Watch has received this photo of the Geo Service I, the offshore supply ship accompanying the vessel BGP Prospector that is carrying out seismic seabed research for French oil giant Total.
With all multinational oil companies in occupied Western Sahara having abandoned their activities, the Moroccan government is trying to catch interest of new investors for further illegal oil exploration. Russian and Chinese state-owned companies, commissioned by a UK firm, are behind a large exploration programme.