Illegal seismic programme delayed

The Irish/British companies illegally exploring for oil in occupied Western Sahara had planned seismic studies  for Fourth Quarter this year. They have still not started, but the plans to carry out the programme remains.
Published: 03.12 - 2010 09:07Printer version    
The UN has stated that further exploration or exploitation of oil in Western Sahara would be in violation of international law. Read the 2002 UN opinion here. Still, the Irish/British firms San Leon and Longreach are continuing their oil programmes near Smara and El Aaiun. The two blocks - called the Zag block and the Tarfaya block - move steadily towards drilling.

The progress of the project, however, is not on schedule. In a presentation in March 2010, San Leon Energy stated that a seismic programme was planned for 4th quarter 2010.

In a company presentation by their partner Longreach in October, the seismic programme was not yet carried out. In the presentation, which was written by CEO and Director Bryan Benitz on the 15th October 2010, the company explains that the illegal 2D seismic programme was still on the To do-list.

On the Tarfaya block, Longreach explains that the drill targets are to be identified by early next year, and that the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM has available two onshore rigs with depth capability of 3,500m and 5,000m. Download the Longreach presentation here.

See also San Leon Energy annual report, 2009.

During the clashes in Western Sahara in November 2010, the Sahrawis put on fire infrastructure of the Moroccan illegal plundering of the territory, such as the offices of the Ministry of Mines - which is the ministry responsible for the government owned ONHYM - the state oil company that has signed with Longreach and the 2 other UK/British firms.

Longreach's contractual partner's offices in El Aaiun were burning only three weeks after the CEO of the firm put the final touch to the presentation. In the presentation, page 6, the firm claims to the investors that their deal in Western Sahara has a "Huge upside potential without political risk". Longreach fails to mention in their presentations that the block is not in Morocco, but in occupied Western Sahara, and that their agreement is in violation of international law and a key UN legal opinion. The appeals to the firms to stay out of the territory, due to the danger of war, are neither listened to, nor mentioned in the company presentations.

The representative of the people of Western Sahara, Frente Polisario, stated in 2001 that Morocco's planned oil programme in Western Sahara was a violation of the ceasefire agreement between the parties.  

It is not known whether the UK or Irish government have reacted to their own firm's violating the Sahrawis rights over their resources, but the Irish government has urged its oil firms in Western Sahara to respect international law in the territory.

The International Court of Justice in 1975 rejected Morocco's claims to the territory. The UN General Assembly treats the territory as a decolonisation issue.  The Government of Norway has labelled the oil exploration in Western Sahara as "a particularly serious violation of fundamental ethical norms e.g. because it may strengthen Morocco's sovereignty claims and thus contribute to undermining the UN peace process".




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.
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