Photo: A Cabot 750 rig, like the one used by San Leon to drill in occupied Western Sahara.
The El Aaiun-4 conventional well is located on the so-called Tarfaya licence, near Foum el Oued, just above Western Sahara's capital city El Aaiun. The drilling rig, a Cabot 750 rig, was provided by French firm Entrepose Drilling.
It will take an expected 30 days for the rig to reach the envisioned depth of 2000 metres.
San Leon Energy has obtained its licence from the Moroccan government, and has consistently stated that its drilling operation would take place in Morocco. However, the site of the drill is located precisely in the parts of Western Sahara that has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. The United Nations consider Western Sahara a Non-Self Governing Territory, or colony, whose people have the right to freely determine the future status of their homeland and its resources. Morocco has blocked the exercise of that right to self-determination for decades, yet proceeds to sell of the Saharawi resources as its own.
Just two days prior to the El Aaiun-4 spudding, Saharawis living in Algerian refugee camps as a direct result of Morocco's invasion of their homeland, were protesting the company's planned operation. See photos below. Protests in both the refugee camps and in the occupied territory have been going on for some time.
In July, the Saharawi president, residing in exile in the Algerian refugee camps, wrote to the UN Secretary General to ask for UN intervention to prevent San Leon from drilling. He called Morocco's oil search in Western Sahara, with the aid of companies like San Leon Energy, "a serious violation of international law and of the permanent sovereignty of the Saharawi people over their own natural resources".
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.
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.
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.