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.  


23.02 - 2018 / 23.02 - 2018SA Court confirms: Morocco has no ownership over Saharawi phoshates
23.02 - 2018 / 21.02 - 2018EU Member States disagree over toxic fertilizers
21.02 - 2018 / 21.02 - 2018Vigeo Eiris goes back on false claim
20.02 - 2018 / 20.02 - 2018EU Parliamentarians concerned over Commission's respect of rule of law
15.02 - 2018 / 15.02 - 2018Sweden to vote against new EU-Morocco fish talks
08.02 - 2018 / 08.02 - 2018Studies continue on Kosmos Energy's block
07.02 - 2018 / 07.02 - 2018Kosmos and Cairn have pulled out of Western Sahara
07.02 - 2018 / 07.02 - 2018Why WSRW refuses to take part in the EU's Western Sahara consultation
03.02 - 2018 / 03.02 - 2018Unison condemnation of the EU Commission from Western Sahara groups
02.02 - 2018 / 01.02 - 2018Siemens fails to respond Western Sahara question at AGM
01.02 - 2018 / 01.02 - 2018EU has sealed Western Sahara trade deal in violation of Court Judgment
31.01 - 2018 / 30.01 - 2018Polisario threatens compensation from EU and companies, warns Nutrien
31.01 - 2018 / 30.01 - 2018Vigeo Eiris reports untruly about UN human rights approval
29.01 - 2018 / 29.01 - 2018'Biggest importer' of phosphate rock is pulling out
27.01 - 2018 / 27.01 - 2018Senior socialist MEPs publicly slam EU-Morocco talks
23.01 - 2018 / 12.01 - 2018Glencore has left occupied Western Sahara
22.01 - 2018 / 22.01 - 2018German government not supportive of business in Western Sahara
15.01 - 2018 / 15.01 - 2018Denmark accepts continued EU fisheries in occupied waters
10.01 - 2018 / 10.01 - 2018EU Court advocate: Fish agreement invalid for including Western Sahara
08.01 - 2018 / 08.01 - 2018EU Commission eying new fish deal including Western Sahara


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