"We respectively advise that the BGP Prospector is carrying out a 3D seismic reconnaissance survey ultimately on behalf of Office National Des Hydrocarbures Et Des Mines (ONHYM) and the Company TOTAL, under permissions granted by ONHYM. The seismic data acquired pursuant to these activities will accordingly be owned by ONHYM", BGP wrote in a letter to WSRW, 5 March 2013.
The statement came as a reponse to a letter from WSRW of 6 December 2012, imploring the company to explain its research vessel's presence off Dakhla, occupied Western Sahara. WSRW also asked the company then to immediately terminate its activities in waters of the territory.
Their answer was sent now at a time when it seems the operations could have terminated. Their research vessel 'BGP Prospector' has not been noticed in the area since 26 February 2013. [WSRW update, 12.03.2013: This information about ending of BGP's operations in Western Sahara is incorrect. The seismic study is still ongoing, and is planned to terminate on 30 March 2013]
WSRW has been observing the BGP Prospector off Dakhla since the end of October 2012. Only a few days before, WSRW had discovered that Total had obtained a reconnaissance license for that precise area.
BGP is a subsidiary of the Chinese state oil company CNPC. The letter from BGP did not carry letter head, nor name of director signing on behalf of the organisation, but was sent to WSRW from the email account of the BGP, with copy to the mother company CNPC.
Total has not answered requests from WSRW regarding the operations offshore the occupied territory.
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.