Seismic surveys in occupied territories to start now

UK-Irish oil minors will start seismic surveys in occupied Western Sahara in June 2011.
Published: 07.05 - 2011 19:41Printer version    
The map above found in Longreach's annual report. The illustration fails to draw the border between Morocco and Western Sahara.

The UN Legal Office has stated that further oil exploration in Western Sahara will be in violation of international law. Yet, the UK and Irish oil companies Longreach and San Leon are continuing their controversial programme. The annual report of UK firm Longreach, published 19 April 2011, reveals that seismic surveys in the proximity of the capital El Aaiun will start already in June.

No reference is made in the entire annual report that most of their blocks are not located in Morocco, but in the territory of Western Sahara - that Morocco illegally and brutally occupied in 1975.

The area where new seismic will be shot next month, is labelled by Moroccan oil authorities as “Tarfaya Offshore”. Most of this block is located in the occupied territory. The new programme “is projected to start June 2011 and will be overseen by the operator San Leon Energy who are a proven international operator”, according to the report.

The document also reveals that in April 2009, the joint venture partners Longreach and San Leon awarded Spectrum, a UK based, but Oslo listed, seismic services company, the contract to reprocess a preferred list of 1,400km of the original 2D seismic shot on the Tarfaya license. Spectrum’s involvement has until today not been known.

“To date 15 leads have been identified, the most prospective of which are located in the north east section of the license. The results of the seismic processing are now complete and this has allowed us to plot co-ordinates for a new 500km 2D infill seismic programme over the most prospective leads”, the report reads.

The exploration will not only take place in Tarfaya. Also in Longreach’s other block, the Zag basin around Smara city, will seismic be shot. The programme “is currently scheduled to commence early third quarter of 2011”. The document also reveals that the PetroCanada (now Suncor) and their partner RWE have exchanged data with Longreach for common understanding of the geology in the area. Suncor and RWE holds the block to the north of Zag.

“With major discoveries directly east of Zag we are confident about Zag’s prospects. In 2010, the company incurred approxiamtely £194,400 (of which £174,400 was incurred in the fourth quarter) of costs related to the planning of the 2D seismic programme on the Tarafaya and Zag Basin license”, the report reads.

Chairman of Longreach, Bryan Benitz, wrote in the introduction that the company wants to take part in the “resource potential of this energy hungry nation” of Morocco. No reference is made as to how the firm’s involvement might put in danger the UN peace process or jeopardize the decolonisation process that the UN is trying to finish in the territory. Moroccan troops are still illegally stationed on Longreach's oil blocks.

benitz_180.jpg“Since year end, events throughout North Africa have rapidly led to turmoil and chaos that has extended into most of the Arab world in varying degrees. Morocco is affected. However, as a nation it appears to be well cushioned by its own cultural and political background, particularly as it has evolved in the last decade. Since 2000, massive changes have been implemented by King Mohammed VI and his closest advisors. This process continues unabated. Morocco’s longstanding alignment with Europe and North America continues unimpaired – historical ties are evident and strong. I remain confident that Longreach’s strategy will remain intact and relationships with our host nation will continue to develop in a suitably fruitful way. We are fully committed to this enormous opportunity of playing our part in developing the hydrocarbon resource potential of this energy hungry nation. Energy selfsufficiency is a key priority, as evidenced by its highly attractive fiscal regime as applied to the petroleum industry”.

The UN has condemned Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara. All Moroccan claims to the territory have been rejected by the International Court of Justice.  Parts of Longreach's Zag block is even on territory which is not under Moroccan military control, but in the territories which have been administered by Polisario since the illegal Moroccan invasion in 1975.




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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