Morocco prepares for illegal mineral exploration in occupied Western Sahara (WSRW)

London, 18 July 2021 (SPS) - Morocco is to dig 2,400 square meters of soil in occupied Western Sahara, as part of a mineral exploration, warned the International Observatory Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), recalling that Western Sahara is under foreign illegal occupation by Morocco, and the latter has no right under international law to carry out such exploration work.

“The Moroccan government's National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) has issued a tender document on its website revealing a plan to carry out mineral exploration in Western Sahara,” said WSRW in a report released on its website.

“The tender invites for digging 2,400 square meters of soil, in the shape of 800 meters of trenches, each 3 meters deep and one meter wide,” said the source.

“Trenching is a common mineral exploration technique, through which rock samples are taken at regular intervals - for instance, every 1 meter - for geochemical analysis. The digging is to get to slightly fresher and more representative rock below the excavated sand/gravel cover,” said the report.

In this regard, WSRW recalled that “Western Sahara is under foreign illegal occupation by Morocco, and the latter has no right under international law to carry out such exploration work.”

ONHYM refers to the location for the dig as being in ‘Provinces du Sud’ - the 'Southern Provinces'. This is how Morocco's refers to the territory that the UN, the International Court of Justice, the EU Court of Justice, and the African Union reject Morocco's claims to.

ONHYM itself, together with Canadian company Metalex, is a joint-venture partner in the mineral exploration in the same area of Western Sahara. Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) wrote yesterday that reports from Metalex suggest that the company is proceeding in its partnership with ONHYM. It is not clear to WSRW if there is any relationship between the trenching programme described in the tender and ONHYM's partnership with Metalex. An ONHYM map from January 2021 reveals that ONHYM has two other projects in the same part of Western Sahara, said the source. (SPS)

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