Total returned to Western Sahara – with giant oil contract

It caused a stir in the Security Council when French oil giant Total signed an oil agreement in occupied Western Sahara in 2001. Three years later they pulled out. But now they are back.
Published: 29.11 - 2012 22:17Printer version    
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In July 2011, WSRW published an article showing how Morocco’s state oil company ONHYM had carved out 3 new and large oil blocks in the southern parts offshore Western Sahara.

No company had at that time signed up for the blocks, according to the ONHYM map.

Now, however, it is clear that the French company Total signed up for the whole lot, through a monster size oil reconnaissance contract. The new map published on ONHYM’s webpages shows that the 3 blocks from last year have been united in one massive block, covering an astonishing 100,926,70 The name of the new block is Anzarane Offshore, and is represented by the pink  area at the image above.

No publication or production date appear on the map itself [or download here], but the properties of the PDF file shows it is dated as early as 8 March 2012. An overview published on ONHYM's webpages 27 February 2012 shows the agreement was already signed, while another source claims the signing was done already in 2011. The name of the block – and Total’s participation in it – also appears in a file [or download here] published by Longreach Oil and Gas on 19 March 2012. The Longreach report mentions that a Total offshore block was signed "recently".  It is only now, however, that is has been clear where the Anzarane block is actually located. WSRW does not know when in 2012 the new map was uploaded to ONHYM's webpages. One source places Total's share in Anzarane at 75%.

Total pulled out of its initial reconnaissance agreement in 2004, citing lack of potential for the area. There has, however, from time to time circulated rumours that they wanted to return. Now they are back to the same area that they initially had, albeit the area is now even bigger than in 2001-2004.

“Total’s return to occupied Western Sahara is sad news for the Saharawi people. By doing this, Total directly undermines the UN’s peace efforts and international law. We appeal to the company to immediately reconsider its involvement”, stated Erik Hagen, chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch.  

Mr. Hagen said that WSRW will as soon as possible direct a request to Total asking whether the information on the Moroccan government's oil company's webpages is correct. No information about any Anzarane block is found on Total's own webpages.

When Total – then TotalFinaElf – signed a licence for the same acreage in 2001, the Security Council asked its Legal Office to produce an opinion of the legality of the company's agreement with Morocco. The legal office concluded it would be in violation of international law if the exploration and exploitation continued in the disregard of the wishes and interests of the people of the territory.

That's what's now happened.


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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.
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It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


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