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Hassi R'Mel gas field, Algeria


Hassi R'Mel, Algeria's largest natural gas field, was discovered in 1956 alongside the Hassi Messaoud oil field, and has also been operated by state-owned company Sonatrach ever since. Production of natural gas started in 1961, and in 1964 Algeria became the first country to export liquefied natural gas (LNG). Natural gas from Hassi R’Mel is supplied to Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Tunisia, Italy, and Slovenia through three major export pipelines.

Workers and unemployed youth have been largely unsatisfied with the working conditions and practices of Sonatrach in Hassi R'Mel as well as with their respective company trade unions. Since 2010, they have been protesting their working conditions as well as the generally high unemployment rate by organizing hunger strikes, blockades and boycotts affecting Sonatrach's operations.

In 2010, a group of young unemployed people went on a hunger strike for a week in order to protest against favouritism in employment procedures especially in relation to the oil exploration activities by Sonatrach. As their main reason for starting the hunger strike they stated that they wanted to protest unemployment.

At the end of 2011, almost 2,000 workers of Sonatrach living in the Hassi R'Mel region went on a hunger strike and decided to boycott all the reunions and activities of their company's trade union. They were demanding a 50% salary raise.

After a long range of hunger strikes and protests, a salary agreement was finally concluded between the general directorate of Sonatrach and their social partner. The concessions made by Sonatrach were “not enough”, according to comments of workers.

In 2013, yet another group of Sonatrach workers went on a hunger strike to demand for better working conditions. To affirm their support for their colleagues, more than 400 resident workers of Sonatrach living in Hassi R'Mel staged a protest outside the company's production directorate administrative complex.

The conflict between Sonatrach and local resident workers as well as unemployed youth groups does not seem to come to an end in the near future as concessions previously made were mainly deemed not satisfactory by the workers.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Hassi R'Mel gas field, Algeria
State or province:Laghouat Province
Location of conflict:Hassi R'Mel
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
Gas flaring
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Algeria's largest natural gas field Hassi R'mel holds recoverable reserves of about 2.415 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and accounted for three-fifths of Algeria's gross natural gas production in 2012.

Annual producing capacity is around 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Project area:350,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:10,000 – 16,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2010
Company names or state enterprises:Sonatrach from Algeria
Relevant government actors:Sonatrach
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Comité de soutien au syndicalisme autonome algérien (CISA),
Coordination nationale pour le changement et la démocratie (CNCD),
Comité national pour la défense des droits des chômeurs (CNDDC),

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Strikes
Hunger strikes and self immolation


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The conflict between Sonatrach and local resident workers as well as unemployed youth groups does not seem to come to an end in the near future as concessions previously made were mainly deemed not satisfactory by the workers.

Sources & Materials

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

Bencherif, D. (2003), Giant Hassi R'Mel gas field, AAPG Hedberg Conference, 18-20 February 2003, Algiers, Algeria

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) (2014), Country Analysis Brief: Algeria, July 2014

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Hunger strike to earn their keep, by Youcef Boumidouna, FRANCE 24 Observers, International News, Algeria, 10 August 2010

Vivre parmi les scorpions dans le bidonville de Hassi R'mel, by Mustapha Benfodil, El Watan, 22 September 2012

Algérie: des employés du site pétrolier de Hassi R'mel en grève de la faim illimitée, by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, RFI France, 4 June 2013

La société civile donne de la voix, by Mélissa Rahmouni, Courrier International, 16 February 2012

Algérie: la révolte sociale s'étend aux salariés de Sonatrach dans le Sahara, Algeria Watch, Comité international de soutien au syndicalisme autonome algérien (CISA), 9 March 2011

Sonatrach: grève de la faim à Hassi R'Mel, by Mina Adel, El Watan, Algeria-Watch, 20 December 2011

Sonatrach – Hassi R'Mel: la direction générale fait des concessions; “pas assez” disent les travailleurs, Le Matin, 9 March 2011

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Sonatrach, Algeria Map

VIDEO: Hunger strikers in Hassi R'mel,

VIDEO: Hunger strike to earn their keep, FRANCE 24

PHOTOS of the protest camp: Hunger strike to earn their keep, FRANCE 24

Other documents

Meta information

Last update13/10/2015