Glencore steps up oil search offshore occupied Western Sahara

The Swiss company is undertaking more seismic studies and has entered into a renewed contract on a neighbouring block, offshore the occupied territory.
Published: 15.02 - 2017 12:47Printer version    
UPDATE: The BGP Prospector and the support vessels left the survey area offshore El Aaiun during in the evening of February 23/early February 24, 2017. The study thus had a duration of a bit less than 4 weeks. An industry source told Daily Telegraph on 25 February that Glencore is in talks to sell the ownership of its stake in Foum Ognit to New Age.

The seismic study vessel BGP Prospector is right now undertaking seismic studies some 10-30 nautical miles off the coast of El Aaiun, the capital city of Western Sahara. The vessel is owned by a subsidiary of the Chinese oil company CNPC and has twice in the past done similar studies.

The BGP Prospector is accompanied by the Vanuatu flagged guardship Jan Van Gent and the Singapore supply vessel Geo Service I. The three vessels entered Dakhla port on 26 January. After spending a few hours in Dakhla port, they departed at 7PM on 27 January heading north.

The three vessels are now active on the block called Foum Ognit, operated by New Age Energy, and on which Glencore holds a 18,75 percent participatory interest. From what WSRW can read from maps, the study takes place on block number 176 as illustrated on the maps of the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM.

The seismic study vessel BGP Prospector was also involved on the former Anzarane block of Total in 2012-2013 and for Kosmos Energy on the Boujdour block in 2014. This video shows the BGP Prospector and Geo Service I in Las Palmas harbour after having completed a study in the occupied territory for Kosmos Energy in 2014. Before heading to Foum Ognit, the vessels might have undertaken a few days study on the block Boujdour Maritime, operated by Kosmos Energy. Polisario was already in contact with Kosmos on that matter. The vessels were travelling on 4 knots in reciprocal tracks off Boujdour during those days.

This is the second round of seismic studies on the Foum Ognit block. In 2014-2015 the Norwegian seismic company SeaBird Exploration undertook a study on the same area. The company later regretted its involvement, which it had initially been told by the operator to be located "offshore Morocco".

«We admit having done a mistake. It feels very uncomfortable having contributed in supporting an occupation power», seismic company SeaBird told after completing its contractual obligations.

Western Sahara has been under occupation by Morocco since 1975. Further oil exploration is in violation of international law.

The current study area is relatively small, probably no more than 2,000 square nautical miles.  

This is not the only block where Glencore is involved. Today, exactly one year has passed since ONHYM signed an supplementary agreement with Glencore (Morocco) Ltd and Teredo Morocco Ltd for the neighbouring area Boujdour Offshore Shallow, located slightly to the north and east of Foum Ognit. The information about these agreements were published in the Moroccan official gazette in 2016 (see here and here)

In September 2016, Afrika Kontakt wrote that the Danish investor Pensam had blacklisted Glencore for its operations in Western Sahara.


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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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