San Leon Energy has for a decade held interest in a controversial licence called "Zag Licence" partially located in Morocco and in occupied Western Sahara.
On 19 April, San Leon stated in a release that it is trying to avoid a penalty for not having progressed its works according to plans. The company states that "the regional security situation" justifies a case of force majeure.
Thousands of Saharawis protest against San Leon Energy Massive numbers of Saharawi refugees gathered last weekend to send a clear message to Irish oil company San Leon Energy which is looking for oil in their occupied homeland: "San Leon: go home". Find high resolution footage of the protest, free of charge. Read more
"The Company has notified ONHYM that a "force majeure" has occurred pursuant to the Petroleum Agreement due to financial, commercial and operational challenges on the licence over a number of years", PetroMaroc stated.
Ironically, the two companies could be more concerned about the legal risks in operating in the territory without the consent of the people of Western Sahara. Morocco has been occupying Western Sahara since 1975.
The Court of Justice of the EU on 21 December 2016 judged it illegal for the EU to enter into agreements covering Western Sahara without seeking the consent of the people. San Leon, on the other side, feels the Saharawi people are irrelevant to seek consent from.
"They’re not…from our point of view, and certainly from the point of view of the organisation and the government that issues our licence, they are not a representative people", Daniel Martin, lawyer of San Leon Energy, told Irish national TV, 4 August 2011.
In 2016, the UN Secretary General stated that Morocco's unilateral deportation of UN personnel from the territory constituted a security risk, as it would no longer be able to comply with its mandate. The French government succeeded in avoiding a US call for immediate return of the UN staff.
Thousands of Saharawis have marched against San Leon Energy's drilling in the territory. San Leon carried out drilling on another block, Tarfaya, in 2015. This was the first ever drilling in Western Sahara onshore since Morocco illegally occupied it in 1975. WSRW in November 2016 wrote that it is not clear what role San Leon has on the Tarfaya block today.
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.
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.
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.
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.