Escalation to full exploration in Smara

Irish oil firms will explore for oil in the Smara area in complete violation of international law.
Published: 22.06 - 2009 08:01Printer version    
The first licence in the area around Smara, occupied Western Sahara, was awarded to a group of 3 Irish oil firms in December 2006. The block was named “Zag”.

Now, the work obligations under the reconnaissance licence is said to have been completed.

“As a result of the positive results received from this work the Company has successfully negotiated with ONHYM the conversion of the Reconnaissance Licence into a full Exploration Licence beginning in June, 2009”, states San Leon, one of the firms on its homepages. See homepages, or  download here.

The other two firms involved in the controversial deal are Island Oil and Gas, and Longreach. Western Sahara Resource Watch and Frente Polisario have on numerous occasions protested the involvement, but to no avail. WSRW first protested to Island Oil and Gas on 13 December 2008, the day after they signed their first agreement.

According to a story from Moroccan state news agency MAP, the renegotiated Zag agreement covers 21672,5 square kilometres. This is approximately the same size as the Zag block which was known from earlier (21807 In the MAP release, it is also informed that the Zag block is subdivided into 11 smaller permits, “Zag 1 to 11”. See MAP pages or download here (pdf).

The concessions of a full exploration licence inside the Non-Self Governing territory of Western Sahara is in complete violation of international law, as established by the UN legal office in 2002.

"If further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories", the opinion concluded.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Micheál Martin TD, hopes the Irish oil company Island Oil and Gas would respect international law.

"I would hope that any Irish company operating abroad would have due regard to the principles of international law and the rights of indigenous peoples", Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin TD, said in a question in the Irish parliament last year when asked how the government views the activites of Island.

The licence to San Leon/Island Oil/Longreach was negotiated simultaneously as Island Oil got 2 other blocks in Morocco proper. A press release from Island Oil and Gas 19 June 2009, mentions that a consortium of Island Oil and Gas, Serica Energy and ONHYM were awarded two 8 year petroleum agreements in the areas of Sidi Moussa Offshore and Foum Draa Offshore, both located offshore, some 100 km south west of the city of Agadir.  


21.11 - 2017 / 11.11 - 2017Paradise Papers: New light on Glencore structure
10.11 - 2017 / 27.08 - 2010Support Western Sahara Resource Watch
31.10 - 2017 / 12.10 - 2017Moroccan wind energy in occupied Western Sahara passing 40%
31.10 - 2017 / 31.10 - 2017Interview with Jytte Guteland: 1 of 5 MEPs evicted from Western Sahara
30.10 - 2017 / 10.10 - 2017UK company building wind park in occupied Western Sahara
26.10 - 2017 / 26.10 - 2017Kosmos surveying oil potential near Dakhla again?
24.10 - 2017 / 24.10 - 2017EU Parliament approves Morocco aviation deal including Western Sahara
24.10 - 2017 / 24.10 - 2017EU-Morocco trade talks: replacing Saharawis with Moroccans
23.10 - 2017 / 20.10 - 2017Imminent vote on EU-Morocco aviation deal, covering Western Sahara
11.10 - 2017 / 10.10 - 2017Wärtsilä to build power plant in occupied Western Sahara
09.10 - 2017 / 09.10 - 2017Morocco announces 500% increase of agriculture zone in occupied Dakhla
27.09 - 2017 / 26.09 - 2017EU appears clueless on import levels from Western Sahara
27.09 - 2017 / 25.09 - 2017New report: Sweden must advise companies on Western Sahara
01.09 - 2017 / 01.09 - 2017Saharawi organisations slam EU over trade talks with Morocco
19.07 - 2017 / 18.07 - 2017Civilian court follows military court against Saharawi activists
13.07 - 2017 / 13.07 - 2017Western Sahara has won its conflict cargo case in South Africa
10.07 - 2017 / 10.07 - 2017Siemens inconsistently supporting occupations
05.07 - 2017 / 05.07 - 2017Sign up! Stop EU trade talks with Morocco regarding Western Sahara!
02.07 - 2017 / 01.07 - 2017New Chinese interest in oil search in occupied Western Sahara?
30.06 - 2017 / 30.06 - 2017Here is Dura Bulk unloading Western Sahara sand in Tenerife


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.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.
The Western Sahara oil curse


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. News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

Register for our English newsletter:

These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy