The unique video documents Morocco violating international law. The UN has stated that further oil search in Western Sahara would be illegal unless the Saharawis are consulted. But they are not. Most probably, the trucks are seen conducting two-dimensional surveys for the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM, by the Morocco based seismic services firm GeoAtlas. The study is said to have taken place from April to September 2010.
At least since 2006, has ONHYM steadily been advancing their oil search in the socalled ‘Boujdour block’. ONHYM has since 2007 been operator of its own onshore block, a licence which is wholly situated in the occupied territories.
Already in its 2006 annual report, did ONHYM label this specific area as a particularly promising zone for petroleum findings, after traces of oil had been discovered upon drilling for water. Following these first findings, two researchers of Malaysian oil firm Petronas in 2006 carried out an evaluation of the hydrocarbon potential in the area.
Then, in 2008, a Moroccan newspaper started a rumour that ONHYM had struck oil in Boujdour. ONHYM immediately after denied the claim in the newspaper Aujourd’hui le Maroc. ONHYM director Amina Benkhadra stated that they needed to do far more studies before they could “cry victory”. She said that further geological, geophysical and well work was programmed within a 2008-2012 framework, to “get a better knowledge of the parameters of the geological formations”, she stated.
Mrs. Benkhadra underlined that a 2D seismic study was carried out onshore Boujdour between 15 September and 26 November 2007, and that “these works had been carried out under very good conditions”.
And the work proceeded. From 2008, a dozen of tenders that Morocco opened for drilling. Some of the tenders cover supplies of equipment necessary for setting up the drilling equipment, petrol etc.
From the tender process, it seems that they have first developed the well “BJD 1”, in proximity of the Boujdour city, proceeding to ”BJD 2” at an unknown location. For the BJD 1 well, ONHYM in December 2009 opened a tender to hire a firm for mud logging of the well. Mud loggers are specialized in making detailed records of a borehole by examining the bits of rock or sediment brought to the surface as the well is drilled. ONHYM guaranteed that they would provide security around the well area, while the mud loggers would monitor the sediments.
In a 2008 ONHYM report it is stated that one well had been made. The exact location is not known, since no wells are yet located within the Boujdour block on the hydrocarbon map on ONHYM’s webpages.
Summer/autumn of 2010 saw more activity on the block. Not only the video-documented seismic survey trucks, but also vehicles belonging to the French firm GeoSpec were observed in Boujdour, carrying what appears to be drilling equipment. See photo above and below. Click for high resolution.
The state firm budgeted necessary “consumables” for the establishing of wells “BJD 1” and “BJD 2”. This would be petrol, cement etc.
A map from the UK oil firm Longreach contributes to the speculations. “Oil discovery by ONHYM”, Longreach notes coldly on the Boujdour block (see far left corner of photo to the right). No such report of an oil discovery has been mentioned by ONHYM themselves.
Also a 2007 Longreach report which the firm has never themselves published, refers to a ”Hydrocarbon potential […] has been confirmed by […] the Boujdour well in the southern onshore basin”.
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.