El-Aaiun, Western Sahara: On May 17th, 2016, The Polish Company Geofizyka Kraków started working in the disputed territory of Western Sahara after it signed a contract agreement with the Moroccan National Bureau of the carbohydrates and Energy ( ONHYM) early this year. The company is conducting seismic survey in the region of El-Aaiun in Western Sahara for the benefit of the Moroccan government. These seismic surveys are usually done to explore the potential existence of minerals, oil or gas in a designated area. Geofyzika KKrakow started its operation yesterday in an area located in the desert of El-Aaiun, named: Kdayyat Sbaa. The seismic surveys should take place along a 164 km line starting from Kdayyat Sbaa all the way to the region of Lamsid that located by the Atlantic , north of Boujdour city.
These surveys aim at measuring the earth’s geo- properties by means of physical principles such as magnetic, electric, gravitational, thermal, and elastic theories. It is based on the theory of elasticity and therefore tries to deduce elastic properties of materials by measuring their response to elastic disturbances called seismic (or elastic) waves. Therefore, they determine the existence of minerals, oil or gas using these methods that are recognized internationally.
Geofizyka Kraków has operated as a geophysical contractor since 1the 50´s. Until 1998 GK was a Ltd. company. In July of 2012, It changed and is now registered as join stock company, but still considered as a part of PGNiG (POGC, Polish Oil & Gas Company) which is the sole owner of GK. It now has branches registered in different countries and continents: Pakistan, Libya, Georgia, Oman, Slovakia and Czech. In a recent press release published in March 23rd, 2016 on its website, GK announced the following:
Geofizyka Kraków has registered its new branch in Morocco in February. In March the Cracow Company proceeded to the execution of a contract for seismic surveys for national company ONHYM.
In its mission statement, GK states that within its responsibilities are the following duties and tasks:
Geofizyka Kraków wishes to be a trustworthy partner for all its stakeholders. We operate with a long-term view and maintain and deliver quality in a sustainable and responsible manner. Working around the world we fully comply with legal regulations, as well as meet even most rigid and hard requirements and commitments. We always show respect for local culture, religions and customs, having an open dialogue with local communities. We recognize ethics and transparency as primary values in business relations, expecting the same attitude from our suppliers and partners (from GK Policy).
Such ethics and commitments sound great but from practice and reality. It is very ironic that GK decided to invest in the disputed territory of Western Sahara by running all these seismic surveys, hired by the Moroccan government in a territory that it does not have sovereignty over. The company opted to ignore the international law and legality while thinking only of making big bucks. The company did not engage into a consultation with the Saharawis themselves nor did it seek their consent. It is also very obvious that Saharawis do not benefit and will not benefit from such economic activities. GK did not seem to acknowledge the existence of the UN legal Advisor´s legal opinion, which emphasizes the consent, the consultation, and the benefit of the Saharawis from any economic activity or investments taking place in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. GK preferred not to pay attention to the recent December 2015 ECJ ruling which annulled the EU- Moroccan Trade agreement on the basis of the lack of respect of these same criteria ratified by the different UN and UNSC resolutions. . In other words, a country cannot exploit the natural resources of a non-self-governing territory without the consent of the indigenous people and without re-investing the fruits of such exploitation in the territory itself.
The Western Sahara is home to immense and abundant phosphate reserves, rich fishing waters, zinc, copper, cobalt, uranium, and potential oil deposits onshore and offshore. As it maintains de facto control of the urban and economic centers of the Western Sahara, Morocco benefits from the extraction of these natural resources. As a local Saharawi association, The Association for the Monitoring of the Resources and for the Protection of the Environment in Western Sahara (AMRPENWS) takes for granted the fact that the Western Sahara is still considered a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations; and according to the UN Charter and the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960, the administering power of such a territory is responsible for ensuring that any economic gains in its colony must directly benefit the people of that colony. Morocco is pouring more settlers into the territory and is taking advantage of such foreign investments to legalize its presence in Western Sahara. It is also using these revenues to improve its economy and to fortify the Berm (Sand Wall) that separates Western Sahara in two. AMRPENWS urges GK to pull out from the territory and to take its business elsewhere. It also calls GK to respect the international law and to act accordingly vis.-s-vis the Western Sahara conflict and the illegality of foreign investments without the respect of the above-mentioned reasons and criteria. The people of Western Sahara remain the sole proprietor of the resources of Western Sahara.