Irish oil firms awarded exploration licence in occupied Smara
Both San Leon and Island Oil & Gas have announced that the Zag Reconnaissance Licence has been upgraded to a full Exploration Licence. The Zag basin is located near Smara, occupied Western Sahara.
Published: 23.07 - 2009 19:35Printer version    
In December 2006, three Irish oil firms successfully negotiated a highly controversial reconnaissance licence with the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM (Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines). Under this licence, Island Oil, Longreach and San Leon started scanning the soil for oil in an area near Smara, occupied Western Sahara. The block of 21,807 square kilometers was dubbed the “Zag” basin.

The work under the reconnaissance licence has been completed this year. An aeromagnetic survey indicated some structures, including a 60 km long anticline which potentially holds hydrocarbon reserves.

Both Island Oil & Gas and San Leon have now officially announced the conversion of the reconnaissance licence into a full exploration licence, "which was signed on the 18th of June in Rabat and was approved for release by ONHYM on the 17th July”.

“This is excellent news for Island Oil & Gas. We are now moving forward on three fronts in Morocco, which has become a key area of focus. We are committed to what we believe to be one of the most attractive emerging petroleum provinces in the world", said Paul Griffiths, Island's CEO.

However, those "provinces" are in fact a disputed area, one that has been on the UN's list of Non-Self-Governing Territories for quite some time: Western Sahara.

The full exploration licence could possibly entail the commencement of exploratory drilling in the Zag basin. According to the UN Legal Office, such activities would violate international law. "If further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories", the UN Legal opinion concluded.

The timing of this licence-upgrade is somewhat dubious, coinciding with the resumed peace-talks between the Polisario and Morocco. The actions of Island Oil and partners impede an already tense political process aimed at resolving this protracted conflict about sovereignty in Western Sahara. It seems the Irish oil firms have already decided which horse to bet on.

Read more:
Escalation to full exploration in Smara
Polisario protests Morocco's oil provocations




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.
EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


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.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents. News Archive 2018 News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

Register for our English newsletter:

These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy