The oil map is changing in occupied Western Sahara
Kosmos and Cairn have renewed their licence - but did San Leon Energy abandon one of its licences? A new map from ONHYM suggests changes to the highly controversial oil exploration in the occupied territory.
A new map has appeared online, made by the state owned Moroccan oil company ONHYM on 24 June 2016. As the oil licence maps on ONHYM's own website has not been updated for more than a year, this new map suggests three new developments.
Kosmos and Cairn have renegotiated their offshore agreement. In April 2016, it was known that the duo Kosmos Energy and Cairn Energy were renegotiating the terms for their work offshore occupied Western Sahara. It was also stated that their new licence would be renamed to 'Boujdour Maritime'. That process seems now to have been concluded.
The new licence appears slightly larger than before, by stretching further offshore into the south west.
What happened to the San Leon Energy block called Tarfaya Onshore? San Leon Energy has had interest in the block since 2008, a block that was partially in occupied Western Sahara and partially on the territory of Morocco proper. From September 2014, San Leon has been operating the block with 75% interest. On the recent map, the entire block is no longer appearing at all. San Leon Energy's own website does not reflect any change, and the company still claims to operate the block.
Now we know the shape of the Lemsid block. Since 2015, it has been known that ONHYM had carved out a new area for the oil companies, named Lemsid. WSRW wrote about that in June 2015. From 2016, the exploration activities were observed on the ground, carried out by the Polish company Geofizyka Kraków. WSRW wrote a report about the affair on 28 June 2016. However, the exact borders of the block was only known now. It is not known who is operating the Lemsid block. WSRW guesses it could be ONHYM itself.
Morocco has occupied the larger parts of Western Sahara since 1975, and the UN has stated that any further oil exploration is illegal unless it takes place in accordance with the wishes of the people of the territory. The oil companies involved have made no efforts to seek the consent of the Saharawi people.
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.