Western Sahara government granted mineral exploration licence

The Western Sahara republic yesterday announced the signing of a new onshore mineral exploration licence.

10 August 2023

Illustration photo only. 

Yesterday, 9 August 2023, the exiled government of Western Sahara announced that it has signed an agreement for mineral exploration with Australian company Nomad Exploration Pty Ltd. The accompanying permit corresponds to an area of 2,000 km² in Oum Abana, located in the part of Western Sahara east of the Berm - the 3,000 km-long defensive wall that Morocco has erected across the length of the territory. Oum Abana is thus situated in the area of Western Sahara that is under control of the Saharawi government, and not occupied by Morocco.

Nomad Exploration will carry out geophysical and geochemical surveying in the area.

This is the fifth exploration agreement and permit that the Saharawi government has issued. The four existing licences are jointly held by Hanno Resources Pty Ltd and Serenity Exploration Pty Ltd. Hanno Resources is a privately held mineral exploration company that focuses on the part of the Reguibat Shield of Northwest Africa that is located in Western Sahara. Its interests include iron ore, precious and base metals. 

The exploration agreements have been adopted under the Saharawi government's mining law of 2014. As well established by the International Court of Justice and repeated in hundreds of UN resolutions, the people of Western Sahara, the Saharawis, have a right to self-determination: the right to decide the future status of Western Sahara that is in part occupied by Morocco, and to decide on the resources harboured therein. As such, any exploration or exploitation of the territory's riches requires the Saharawis' consent. The licencing initiative undertaken by the Saharawi government thus aligns with international law - as opposed to Morocco's taking of the resources in the part of the territory that it militarily occupies in contravention of international law.

In 1975, the UN Security Council immediately condemned Morocco's invasion of the territory, and called for immediate withdrawal. Shortly after, the UN General Assembly called on Morocco to end the occupation of Western Sahara. The war between Morocco and the Saharawi liberation movement Frente Polisario was halted in 1991 following a ceasefire agreement in which both parties agreed to hold a referendum on self-determination. Morocco has blocked the referendum process ever since, while at the same time selling off Western Sahara's resources. 

Since 2015, the EU Court of Justice has issued seven rulings that all clearly define Western Sahara as “separate and distinct” from Morocco. Morocco has no sovereignty or administering mandate, the Court has concluded each time, and thus EU agreements with Morocco cannot be extended into the territory without the express consent of the Saharawis. The International Court of Justice, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, the African Union and the European Union are also clear that Western Sahara is not part of Morocco. 


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