Total Renews Oil License In Disputed Western Sahara


LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Total has renewed its licence to explore off the coast of disputed Western Sahara, where its oil hunt has angered independence activists and pushed a Norwegian investor to withdraw its money from the French energy company.

Morocco has issued licences for blocks in the Atlantic waters off Western Sahara, a desert tract that it mostly controls but which is also claimed by an Algerian-backed independence movement that deems those contracts illegal.

Total's activities and plans by U.S. explorer Kosmos Energy to sink a discovery well this year have brought one of Africa's oldest territorial disputes back into focus.

Total said on Friday it had extended for a third year its reconnaissance licence for the 100,000-square-kilometre Anzarane block, which was first issued by Morocco in December 2011.

Total told Reuters in an emailed response to questions that it had renewed the licence "in order to complete the treatment and the interpretation of the seismic data acquired in 2013".

Since obtaining the reconnaissance licence, Total has conducted geological, seabed and 3D seismic studies but has not announced any plans to drill an exploration well, which would require it to sign a separate contract with Morocco.

Morocco, Total and Kosmos have all pledged to abide by international standards and a U.N. legal opinion requiring them to consult local people on their activities.


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