San Leon's drilling began
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Amid Saharawi protests, San Leon Energy has begun to drill an onshore well in occupied Western Sahara on 21 August.

Published 31 August 2015

Photo: A Cabot 750 rig, like the one used by San Leon to drill in occupied Western Sahara.

The El Aaiun-4 conventional well is located on the so-called Tarfaya licence, near Foum el Oued, just above Western Sahara's capital city El Aaiun. The drilling rig, a Cabot 750 rig, was provided by French firm Entrepose Drilling.

It will take an expected 30 days for the rig to reach the envisioned depth of 2000 metres. 

San Leon Energy has obtained its licence from the Moroccan government, and has consistently stated that its drilling operation would take place in Morocco. However, the site of the drill is located precisely in the parts of Western Sahara that has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. The United Nations consider Western Sahara a Non-Self Governing Territory, or colony, whose people have the right to freely determine the future status of their homeland and its resources. Morocco has blocked the exercise of that right to self-determination for decades, yet proceeds to sell of the Saharawi resources as its own.

Just two days prior to the El Aaiun-4 spudding, Saharawis living in Algerian refugee camps as a direct result of Morocco's invasion of their homeland, were protesting the company's planned operation. See photos below. Protests in both the refugee camps and in the occupied territory have been going on for some time.

In July, the Saharawi president, residing in exile in the Algerian refugee camps, wrote to the UN Secretary General to ask for UN intervention to prevent San Leon from drilling. He called Morocco's oil search in Western Sahara, with the aid of companies like San Leon Energy, "a serious violation of international law and of the permanent sovereignty of the Saharawi people over their own natural resources".


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