In October 2001, Kerr-McGee Corporation signed a contract with Morocco in which it “acquired a reconnaissance permit” for more than 27 million acres offshore Western Sahara in the Boujdour block. Kerr-McGee has a 100% interest in this block. According to the Kerr-McGee web site “The acreage lies in water depths ranging from shoreline to more than 10,000 feet, and extends about 350 miles along the coast, covering approximately 24,500 square miles.” (Other sources indicate that Kerr-McGee oil exploration contract covers 44,000 square miles.) According to the company’s Form 10-K “Geological and geophysical studies are planned for 2002.” A similar contract was signed with the French oil company TotalFinaElf for the Dakhla zone covering an area of 115,000 km2, also in the waters of Western Sahara.
In May 2002 Kerr-McGee and TotalFinalElf in turn contracted the work out to the Norwegian seismic company TGS-NOPEC. Although TGS-NOPEC’s stock trades on the Oslo exchange, but its headquarters is in Houston, Texas. The company also has offices in Oslo, Norway; Bedford, England; and Perth Australia. TGS-NOPEC has completed the survey work. Norwegian solidarity groups have campaigned against TGS-NOPEC as a result this contract and are seeking to get the Norwegian State Pension Fund, which owns 7% of the company’s stock, to divest. Sweden’s Banco Funds divested its stock as has the Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende. Norwegian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vaider Helgesen said in February 2003 that the contract was “difficult and uncomfortable investment in a problematic” and compared it to investing in East Timor prior to the international settlement.
Below are two letters send by Richard Knight on this issue.
Richard Knight, page updated February 14, 2003
Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, April 30, 2002
See the following links for background on this issue.
Legal opinion of Hans Corell on the contracts of Kerr-McGee Corporation and TotalFinaElf (Letter dated 29 January 2002 from the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, The Legal Counsel, addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2002/161, 12 February 2002)
Oil Deals Causes Concern, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, February 6, 2002
Rule on Rabat Oil Deal, Norwegian Support Committee for
Oil Gives Western Sahara a Rosy Look, Business Day (