Maps available via the website of the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM reveals that the Moroccan government has drawn up five new oil blocks in occupied Western Sahara.
According to international law, this oil exploration is illegal, since the Sahrawis' wishes have not been taken into account. Western Sahara is under Moroccan occupation, and is defined by the UN as an unresolved colonial issue. In 2002, the UN's legal office gave a statement on the legality of Morocco's oil agreements. Yet, Morocco proceeds with their oil programme.
The newly drawn oil blocks constitute of 2 large areas onshore, and 3 offshore Western Sahara, each of the 5 being approximately 15.000 sq.km. The two onshore blocks are located directly to the east and south of ONHYM’s own Boujdour onshore block, while the three offshore blocks lie to the south of Kosmos Energy’s offshore acreage. If succeeding attracting firms to the illegal programme, Morocco would be more than doubling its acreage in the occupied territories.
The area offshore southern parts of Western Sahara, where 3 of the blocks lie, were originally held by Total from 2001, but the French firm abandoned the block in 2004, after having done seismic studies in 2002.
For long time, however, there have been signs of Morocco’s plan to pick up the offshore plans where Total left.
In 2009, ONHYM completed public tender processes for the reprocessing of 1000 kilometer of the 2D seismic data that originated from Total’s past work offshore Dakhla, with the help of the Norwegian seismic services firm TGS-Nopec. See various ONHYM tender documents: Doc 1, Doc 2, Doc 3, Doc 4, Doc 5.
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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.