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Cape Boujdour (Offshore Block) oil and gas exploration, Western Sahara

Kosmos Energy from Texas wants to explore for oil and gas. There are geopolitical implications because of Western Sahara status under Moroccan domination.


In 2006, when Kerr-McGee withdrew from Western Sahara, the US oil company Kosmos Energy and Morocco's ministry for natural resources and mines signed their first agreement for an offshore oil exploration project off the coast from the town of Cape Boujdour in Western Sahara, that the block is named after. It will be drilling in waters about 2135 meters deep. The initial agreement was made for a period of 18 months, but it has since then been renewed on a number of occasions.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Cape Boujdour (Offshore Block) oil and gas exploration, Western Sahara
Location of conflict:Cape Boujdour (Offshore Block), Western Sahara
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Prospect: estimates range from 500 million to 1 billion barrels of oil.

Project area:3,035,142
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:40,000 – 60,000 (population size of the town of Cape Bojador/Cap Boujdour)
Start of the conflict:01/01/2002
Company names or state enterprises:Kosmos Energy from United States of America
Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) from Morocco
Cairn Energy from United Kingdom
Relevant government actors:Morocco Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) - Morocco's natural resources and mines ministry
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW):
Sahrawi Center for Media and Communication (SCMC)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Oil spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Kosmos has plans to start its first exploration later this year, together with UK's Cairn Energy and the Moroccan national company (ONHYM). The right to self determination of the Sahrawi people, recognized by UN resolutions and international law, has not been respected.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Agreement between Kosmos and Moroccan government for the exploitation of “Boujdour Offshore”, Arrêté du ministre de l’énergie, des mines, de l’eau et de l’environnement no. 1498-06 du 29 joumada I 1427 (26 juin 2006) approuvant l’accord pétrolier conclu le 4 rabii 1427 (3 mai 2006) entre l’Office national des hydrocarbures et des mines, représentant le Royaume du Maroc et la sociéte « Kosmos Energy Offshore Morocco HC ». Published in Bulletin Officiel 5448, 17.08.2006, p. 1161,
[click to view]

UN Security Council, Letter dated 29 January 2002 from the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Legal Counsel, addressed to the President of the Security Council, 12.02.2002, S/2002/161,
[click to view]

All other relevant agreements between Kosmos and the Moroccan government (including renewals presented as decrees/regulations by the government of Morocco) from 2006 to 2011 can be found here:
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

WSRW (2014), A Platform for Conflict. Kosmos Energy's drilling for oil in occupied Western Sahara, WSRW Report, October 2014,
[click to view]

Report in Oil News, 2015
[click to view]

CORELL, Hans (2008), The legality of exploring and exploiting natural resources in Western Africa, Conference on multilateralism and international law with Western Sahara as a case study: Pretoria, South Africa, 4 and 5 December 2008,
[click to view]

Saharawis demonstrating against Kosmos Energy in occupied territory, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), 18.10.2014,
[click to view]

UNRIC Interview with Hans Corell, Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, 10.01.2014 (EN)
[click to view]

Kosmos Energy, Position Statement on Hydrocarbon Exploration Offshore Western Sahara, February 2014,
[click to view]

Kosmos could commence drilling next year in occupied Sahara, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), 13.06.2013,
[click to view]

U.S. Oil Firm Creates Tension over Western Sahara, Inter Press Service, News Agency, by Bryant Harris, 11.03.2014,
[click to view]

Oil drilling is illegal without Saharawi consent, Corell stresses, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), 24.10.2014,
[click to view]

For dummies: Kosmos drilling in occupied Western Sahara, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), 07.10.2014,
[click to view]

Simmering Saharan conflict stirred by offshore oil search, REUTERS, by Lin Noueihed, 13.01.2014,
[click to view]

Offshore Morocco Set for a Busy Year, Rigzone, by Jon Mainwaring, 17.01.2014,
[click to view]

Kosmos drilling plan stirs hornets' nest in Western Sahara, African Energy, 22.11.2013,
[click to view]

Kosmos Energy Homepage – Western Sahara Oil and Gas Exploration:
[click to view]

Sahrawi Slam US Oil Exploration in Western Sahara, teleSUR, 24.09.2014,
[click to view]

Kosmos Energy finalizes Cap Boujdour Farm-out with Cairn Energy, Dallas, Business Wire, 28.10.2013,
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Saharawis demonstrating against Kosmos Energy in occupied territory, 18.10.2014,
[click to view]

Kosmos Presentation, Offshore Aiaun Basin Petrolem System, Cap Boujdour:
[click to view]

Kosmos energy: Get out of occupied Western Sahara:
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1762
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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