San Leon Energy: Excluded by Norwegian Government Pension Fund

San Leon Energy is an oil and gas company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.1 They are Europe’s largest unconventional oil and gas company, unconventional oil and gas in itself brings significant ethical concerns but San Leon Energy also faces criticism in its operations in Western Sahara.

San Leon Energy has received criticism in relation to its operations (onshore hydrocarbon exploration) in the disputed North African territory, which Morocco describes as its Southern Provinces.2 However, Western Sahara still retains the UN status of a non-self-governing territory. Many of the areas indigenous population have been displaced to refugee camps in Algeria. In October 2015 thousands of Saharawi protested against San Leon’s exploration of the Western Sahara region3. According to Western Sahara Resource Watch, San Leon acknowledges Morocco’s right to Western Sahara by referring to the region as Morocco’s Southern Provinces and San Leon has not sought the consent of the people of Western Sahara to proceed with its exploration of natural resources in the area.4. The UN Charter stipulates that the utilisation of natural resources in non-self-governing territories can only take place in cooperation with the people of the area.

In a statement on the 4th March 2016, Norway’s central bank Norges, said it would exclude the company based on “the risk of particularly serious violations of fundamental ethical norms.”5

According to the assessment by the Ethics Council of the GPFG, San Leon had confirmed it signed four contracts with the Moroccan authorities covering oil exploration in Western Sahara. The ethics council additionally notes that “In the Council’s view, San Leon’s exploration activity in Western Sahara must be regarded as a serious violation of ethical norms because the wishes and interests of the people of the area is not given due regard, and it contributes to maintain an unresolved situation in the area.”

This broad issue has also been covered in the Dirty Profits 4 report as Total SA had exploratory operations offshore of Western Sahara. They have since withdrawn from their exploratory operations citing seismic results as the reason for withdrawal.6

Full details of the reasoning for the exclusion is available here:

San Leon Energy gives a list of its significant shareholders here.


  1. http://www.sanleonenergy.com/home.aspx []
  2. http://www.independent.ie/business/world/ngo-slams-irish-oil-cos-africa-plans-31371247.html []
  3. http://www.wsrw.org/a240x3273 []
  4. http://www.wsrw.org/a105x3242 []
  5. http://www.norges-bank.no/en/Published/News-archive/2016/2016-03-04-Decision-on-exclusion/ []
  6. http://www.wsrw.org/a105x3341 []
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