Resource extraction in Sahrawi territory, Western Sahara

Sahrawi people demand for a referendum in order to decide on their independance. Meanwhile Morocco government, with the complicity of multinationals and Western governments, exploits Western Sahara resources.

Following the departure of Spanish colonial troops in 1976, the Western Sahara was geographically divided between Morocco and Mauritania. Since then, the desert dwelling Sahrawi people have opposed Moroccan domination and exploitation of resources, demanding the Sahrawi peoples right to self-determination. The parts of Western Sahara under Moroccan control contain two important natural resources: fish and phosphates (from Fos Bucra). There is also oil.
See more...
Basic Data
NameResource extraction in Sahrawi territory, Western Sahara
ProvinceWestern Sahara
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific Commoditiesphosphates
Biological resources
Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Different natural resources are exploited in Western Sahara by International multinationals, under the approval of Maroccan government.
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)26600000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date1976
Company Names or State EnterprisesOffice Chrifien des Phosphates (OCP) from Morocco - it is the national Moroccan phosphates company. It is the worlds biggest exporter of phosphates and derivatives.
Total from France
Energy Africa
Kerr-McGee Corp. from United States of America
Kosmos Energy from United States of America
Cairn Energy from United Kingdom
Agrium Inc. from Canada
LongreachOil from United Kingdom
Gas Ventures from United Kingdom
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Morocco, Government of Mauritania, Government of Algeria, Sahrawi Board of Petroleum and Mining (partially recognized State of Sahrawi Republic)
International and Financial InstitutionsUnited Nations mission for the referendum in Western Sahara
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersThe Polisario Front, Western Sahara Resources Watch (WSRW), Association Sahraouie des Victimes des Violations Graves des Droits de l’Homme Commises par l’État du Maroc (ASVDH), Sahrawi Centre for Media and Communication
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Soil contamination, Soil erosion
Potential: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Malnutrition, Deaths
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Development of AlternativesThe Saharawi population wants the self-determination of their territory.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The saharawi people still reclaim their rights, while the Morocco Government continues arresting protesters and grabbing their lands, leaving saharawi population living in the desert.
Sources and Materials

Erik Hagen,2008, report on natural resources in Western Sahara.
[click to view]

United Nations report considering the legality of resource extraction in Western Sahara, February 2002
[click to view]

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture’s report, Mission to Marocco, J. E. Mendez, 2013
[click to view]

Nouveau rapport : Total SA au Sahara Occidental occupé, WRSW, 2013
[click to view]


Poissons, primeurs, phosphates exportés vers l’Europe, Si riche Sahara occidental, O. Quarante, 03/2014
[click to view]

[1] What is Total doing in Western Sahara ?, O. Petitjean, Observatoire des multinationales, 25/04/2014
[click to view]

Que fait Total au Sahara?, O. Petitjean, Observatoire des multinationales, 25/04/2014
[click to view]

Sahrawi Board of Petroleum welcomes Total decision to cease activity in Occupied Western Sahara, 22/12/2015
[click to view]

Maroc/Sahara occidental : Une organisation de droits humains légalisée, 24/08/2015
[click to view]

[2] Nouveau rapport WSRW : les importateurs de phosphate du Sahara, Western Sahara Resource Watch, 2014
[click to view]

US oil company set to violate international law in Western Sahara, T. Stevenson, Middle East Eye, 28/09/2014
[click to view]

U.S. Oil Firm Creates Tension over Western Sahara, B. Harris, 11/03/2014
[click to view]

El expolio de los recursos naturales del Sahara Occidental, A. Tombo, 08/07/2015
[click to view]

Other Documents

Source: WSRW
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update18/01/2016