The website Business & Human Rights published 14 December a statement they had received from Total regarding the operations in Western Sahara.
The company defends its operations and admits that "ONHYM and our local affiliate have applied for a one year extension in order to process and interpret- the on-going seismic acquisition".
Western Sahara Resource Watch warned recently that if Total chooses to renew its controversial licence, it would call upon the owners of the company to divest from the company.
"Total's decision to continue the activities, clearly undermines the solving of the conflict and its operations violate international law. Owners of the company that do not want to be associated with this planned robbery of the Saharawi people's natural resources should immediately proceed to divest from the company", warns Erik Hagen, chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch.
The area offshore Western Sahara that Total is working in has been occupied by Morocco since 1975/1979. Morocco's occupation is condemned by the UN.
Here is Total's full statement:
1. On December 2, 2011, Total E&P Maroc and ONHYM (Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines) were granted an Authorization of Reconnaissance covering the Anzarane Offshore area. The “Anzarane Offshore area relevant information” has been posted during the first quarter 2012 on the ONHYM web-site, as well as all the petroleum agreements, reconnaissance contracts and open acreages (See http://www.onhym.com/HYDROCARBURES/PartenariatetCoop%C3%A9rationP%C3%A9trole/Listedespartenaires/tabid/153/Default.aspx )
2. During the first year of reconnaissance, our affiliate achieved various geological and geophysical studies and completed a marine survey during summer 2012. ONHYM and our local affiliate have applied for a one year extension in order to process and interpret- the on-going seismic acquisition.
3. Our local affiliate conducted evaluation works in the same area 10 years ago. Emergence of new ideas on hydrocarbons potential of the area, and improvement of seismic technologies lead us to apply for an new Authorization of Reconnaissance on the same area.
4. It is important to remind that an Authorization of Reconnaissance is neither an exploration contract nor an exploitation contract. It allows evaluation works and surveys of geological and geophysical nature with a view to assessing the petroliferous nature of the sub-soil, and it excludes exploratory drilling. This type of Reconnaissance authorization is common in the Oil and Gas industry, especially in the countries or areas where existence of hydrocarbons has not yet been demonstrated.
5. Our affiliate has been working in the aforementioned offshore area in accordance with the provisions of the letter dated 29 January 2002 from the UN Legal Counsel addressed to the President of the UN Security Council, which states that such contracts for oil Reconnaissance and evaluation “are not in themselves illegal “. Should the reconnaissance period results be encouraging, any further exploration and exploitation activities will be conducted in compliance with “the principles of international law applicable to mineral resources activities in the Non-Self-Governing Territories” and not “in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara” (see http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N02/249/87/PDF/N0224987.pdf?OpenElement) . Globally speaking, as it is expressed in our Code of Conduct, “Total complies with all applicable laws, regulations and decisions of the United Nations and the European Union” and respects the UN Business and Human Rights standards.
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.