Over the past 24 hours, WSRW has observed a resumed seabed exploration north of Dakhla, in the block operated by American oil company Kosmos Energy in collaboration with Scotland's Cairn Energy.
WSRW has spotted the surveying vessel, the Dongfang Kantan No. 1, and its attendant ship, the Jan van Gent, exhibiting sailing tracks that can only be for petroleum reservoir identification. The activity is taking place close to the Gargaa well site - the location where Kosmos carried out the first ever oil drilling operation in the history of occupied Western Sahara. Click the photo for a larger screenshot of the Dongfang Kantan No 1's tracks.
The previous seismic study programme of Kosmos and Cairn offshore occupied Western Sahara took place from February through to mid-April earlier this year.
In May 2017, Kosmos Energy registered at London Stock Exchange, but when doing so, the company published a highly problematic prospectus. All references to the legal and political risk in operating a licence issued by an occupying power for a territory that is not theirs is removed. See the 2017 prospectus here. To compare, when Kosmos registered at New York Stock Exchange in 2011, a substantial section was given to describe the conflict in Western Sahara. See the Kosmos 2011 prospectus here.
The removal of such key information from the future investors comes at a peculiar point, less than a year after the UN recognised national liberation movement of Western Sahara has successfully challenged Moroccan agreements and private company involvements in international and national courts. As of today, 178 days have passed since the vessel NM Cherry Blossom was detained by a South African port.
Kosmos Energy operates under an oil licence for the so-called Boujdour Maritime block, granted by ONHYM (Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines) – Morocco’s state-owned oil company. The block is located off the mid-coast of Western Sahara, west of the town of Boujdour, and is a sizeable 29,740.70 km².
In October 2013, Kosmos Energy signed a farm-in agreement with Capricorn Exploration & Development Company Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Scottish oil firm Cairn Energy PLC. Under the deal, Cairn obtained a 20% working interest in the block, reducing Kosmos’ own stake to 55%. The remaining 25% would be held by ONHYM. At that time, Kosmos also announced that it had identified three prospects with the largest called Gargaa, in waters at a depth of 2135 meters. The current exploration is taking place near the Gargaa site.
It was Morocco’s licensing of the Boujdour block to Kerr-McGee - which operated the block before Kosmos took over - that triggered the UN Security Council to commission its legal department to assess the legality of such deals. The resulting 2002 UN Legal Opinion considered exploration and exploitation in Western Sahara to be in violation of international law if such activity was not in accordance with the wishes and the interests of the Saharawi people.
Read more about Kosmos Energy's activities in Western Sahara in our briefing "Cowboy drilling on occupied land".
Morocco is holding Western Sahara under illegal military occupation and prevents the self-determination process to conclude. Kosmos has held interests in Western Sahara since 2004, and never sought the consent of the people of the territory as is required.