MAC: Mines and Communities

Phosphate rock shipment from Western Sahara seized

Published by MAC on 2017-05-04
Source: POLISARIO Front, Reuters (2017-05-06)

Moroccan phosphate ship held in a South African port by a complaint from Western Sahara Polisario

A bulk vessel was detained in the South African port of Port Elizabeth for carrying phosphate rock plundered from occupied Western Sahara. The liberation movement of Western Sahara, Frente Polisario has managed to intercept and detain the shipment carrying 5,2 million USD worth of conflict minerals destined for the New Zealand agriculture industry.

The phosphate is being exported by Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), a Moroccan state-owned company in the territory which is under foreign Moroccan occupation, and used to produce fertilizers. New Zealand was in 2016 the second biggest importer of the conflict mineral, according to the report P for Plunder 2016.  

See also on MAC:

2015-09-26 PotashCorp in Western Sahara: A Very Fertile Occupation

2015-06-19 African states re-confirm their pledge to the Saharawi people

2015-01-17 Which mining companies are exploiting Western Sahara?

Western Sahara: Seizure of a cargo of phosphate rock destined for New Zealand

Australia Western Sahara Association, POLISARIO Front

https://www.pambazuka.org/human-security/western-sahara-seizure-cargo-phosphate-rock-destined-new-zealand

May 4, 2017

The Saharawi people and their representative organizations, including the democratically elected SADR government, have long protested the illegal mining and export of high quality phosphate rock from an area of Western Sahara which has been under armed occupation by Morocco since 1975.  The trade has continued despite the commitment of the United Nations in 1991 to ensure for the people of Western Sahara a self-determination process, something otherwise achieved throughout Africa.

Bir Lehlu, Western Sahara (4 May 2017). The government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (the SADR) and the Saharawi national liberation movement, the Polisario Front, announced that they have secured through legal means in South Africa the interception and detention of a shipment of phosphate mineral rock exported from Western Sahara which had been destined for a New Zealand importer.

The cargo, at an estimated 54,000 tonnes and worth just over $5 million (US), is a commodity used in the manufacture of agricultural fertilizer.  It had been loaded aboard the Marshall Islands flagged bulk carrier NM Cherry Blossom on the coast of occupied Western Sahara last month.  Saharawi authorities initiated legal proceedings in South Africa when it became clear that the ship would call into Port Elizabeth to reprovision during a month-long journey.  The ship remains at Port Elizabeth.

The Saharawi people and their representative organizations, including the democratically elected SADR government, have long protested the illegal mining and export of high quality phosphate rock from an area of Western Sahara which has been under armed occupation by Morocco since 1975.  The trade has continued despite the commitment of the United Nations in 1991 to ensure for the people of Western Sahara a self-determination process, something otherwise achieved throughout Africa.  A handful of companies worldwide remain involved in the trade, including two in New Zealand.

Emhamed Khadad, a member of the Polisario leadership, remarked that “the mining and export of what is a non-renewable resource from a place under occupation where the UN has tried to pursue the peaceful assurance of a basic right to the Saharawi people is wrong on many levels.  It is a violation of well-settled principles of international law.  It is morally indefensible.  And it’s bad business, in that the few companies involved face reputational risks, and – as we have seen in several European countries – investor withdrawal.”

Saharawi authorities have attempted to engage the companies involved, and did so in New Zealand along with the government because of that country’s historical support for self-determination in East Timor (Timor-Leste) and Western Sahara.  In September 2015 and September 2016 position statements about Western Sahara, the Fertilizer Association of New Zealand – a representative agency of both New Zealand companies involved – claimed the purchasing of the phosphate rock had a legal basis.  Despite this, the companies have never responded to Saharawi requests for dialogue, and would not disclose a purported legal opinion justifying the purchasing of the commodity.  

Khadad went on to note: “This is a non-renewable resource, one which needs to stay in the ground until the Saharawi people are given what is the basic commitment of the international community to choose their future.”

The seizure of the cargo under court order comes after Saharawi authorities successfully concluded a case against the European Union for extending a free trade agreement with Morocco into Western Sahara.  In that case, the Court of Justice of the European Union noted in its December 2016 decision that Morocco did not have governing competency or any territorial claim to Western Sahara.  The territory, the Court found, is to be treated as a separate entity from Morocco and the consent of its people (the Saharawi people and not more recent settlers) required for development and export of resources.

“The interdiction of this shipment is a further use of peaceful means to apply the law, for Saharawi people denied the most basic of rights in a nearly decolonized world, and who must endure a brutal occupation with widely documented human rights violations”, remarked Khadad.  “We have tried to patiently engage with the companies involved, and with some we have prevailed.  The New Zealand companies are responsible for a substantial share of the trade.  It was right to pursue legal action to vindicate a clear legal right to this commodity, and important our people relied on a well-regarded justice system in an African country to do that.”

For additional information and media contact:
Kamal Fadel
Polisario (Western Sahara) Representative to Australia and New Zealand
Phone: +61416335197
Email: kfadel@sadroilandgas.com


Morocco phosphate ship held in South Africa port over Western Sahara claim

Reuters - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-4470860/Morocco-phosphate-ship-held-South-Africa-port-Western-Sahara-claim.html

3 May 2017

RABAT/ALGIERS, May 3 (Reuters) - A Moroccan phosphate ship has been held in a South African port by a complaint from Western Sahara Polisario movement that it transported cargo unlawfully from the disputed territory, a lawyer and Polisario said on Wednesday.

The seizure of the vessel, carrying 50,000 tonnes of phosphate to New Zealand, may be a test for the Polisario's use of a European court decision last year that ruled Western Sahara should not be considered part of the Moroccan kingdom in EU and Moroccan deals.

Western Sahara has been disputed since 1975 when Morocco claimed it and the Polisario movement fought a guerilla war for the Sahrawi people's independence there. A ceasefire in 1991 split the region in two between what Morocco calls its southern Sahara and an area controlled by Polisario.

The two sides have been since locked in diplomatic and legal tussles though tensions flared last year when U.N. peacekeepers had to step in between Moroccan forces and Polisario brigades in the buffer zone near the Mauritania border.

The Marshall Island-flagged NM Cherry Blossom, carrying phosphate from Laayoune in the Moroccan part of the disputed territory for state-run OCP, has been held in Port Elizabeth by a civil maritime court order, OCP said.

"The order issued in South Africa regarding the cargo of the NM Cherry Blossom is a standard temporary measure made on the basis of only one party's allegations," OCP legal counsel Othmane Bennani Smires told Reuters by telephone.

"We are fully confident of a favourable resolution once the actual facts of this case are presented to the South African court."

He said OCP's Phosboucraa subsidiary and its activities are in full compliance "with the United Nations framework and relevant international legal norms and standards".

The sparsely populated stretch of desert bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Western Sahara has rich offshore fishing as well as phosphate and possibly oil reserves. OCP, or Office Cherifien de Phosphate (OCP) is the world's leading phosphate exporter.

Southern African maritime authorities were not immediately available to comment or confirm details but OCP confirmed the other party in the case was Polisario.

Polisario chief negotiator Mohamed Khadad said they had filed the case based on the Western Sahara's status defined by the U.N. as a non-self governing territory, to protect its natural resources, and also based on the EU court decision.

"There is no possibility to exploit the natural resources of the Western Sahara without the consent of the people of the Western Sahara," Khadad told Reuters.

"We are convinced, we have been following it from the port of the Laayoune," he said. "It is a matter of law. We will abide by the last decision of the court."

In January, Morocco rejoined the African Union regional body, where Polisario's self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is also a member. South Africa along with Algeria have been key supporters of the SADR.

The NM Cherry Blossom case comes as the U.N. Security Council has backed attempts to restart talks between Morocco and Polisario for a mutually acceptable political solution to the question of the region's self-determination.

Talks have failed for years to bring an end to the dispute. Morocco wants the region to have autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty while Polisario calls for a referendum on self-determination, including on the question of independence. (Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Tom Heneghan)


Plunder vessel detained in South Africa on way to New Zealand

http://www.wsrw.org/a105x3844

May 3 2017

A bulk vessel was Tuesday this week detained in the South African port of Port Elizabeth for carrying phosphate rock plundered from occupied Western Sahara. The vessel NM Cherry Blossom is stuck at anchor 4 kilometers off Port Elizabeth, South Africa, not allowed to continue on its journey to New Zealand.

The liberation movement of Western Sahara, Frente Polisario has thus managed to intercept and detain the shipment carrying 5,2 million USD worth of conflict minerals destined for the New Zealand agriculture industry. The phosphate is being exported by a Moroccan state-owned company in the territory which is under foreign Moroccan occupation, and used to produce fertilizers. The cargo is estimated at 54.000 tonnes.

New Zealand was in 2016 the second biggest importer of the conflict mineral, according to the report P for Plunder 2016, published by WSRW last week.

The story of the detained cargo was covered by Reuters on Wednesday evening.

NM Cherry Blossom – was originally scheduled to arrive in Bluff, New Zealand, on 30 May 2017 according to the website of Southport. The vessel is owned by the Greek company AM Nomikos Transworld Maritime (www.amnomikos.net, tel +30 210 615 5200, +30 210 619 8220). Its current location can be tracked on the website Marinetraffic.

The vessel stopped over in South Africa for provisioning. And it was during those few hours that authorities from Western Sahara initiated legal proceedings against the vessel. A court order resulted in the detention of the cargo aboard the ship.

The Saharawi people and their representative organization, has long protested the illegal mining and export of phosphate rock from that part of Western Sahara under armed occupation since 1975 by Morocco. The trade has continued despite the commitment of the United Nations in 1991 to oversee a self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara, a territory dealt with by the UN as Africa’s last colonial issue.

"The export of these non-renewable resources from a place under armed occupation is a violation of well-settled principles of international law. It is a war crime", stated Kamal Fadel, the Saharawi representative for Australia and New Zealand.

"The resources need to stay in the ground until the Saharawi people are allowed the basic commitment of the international community to choose their future", Fadel said.

The seizure of the cargo under court order comes only months after Saharawi authorities successfully concluded a case against the European Union for extending a free trade agreement with Morocco into Western Sahara.  In the case, for which the Court of Justice of the European Union issued its final judgment on 21 December 2016, the Court noted that Morocco did not have governing competency or any territorial claim to Western Sahara.  

The territory, the Court concluded, is to be treated as a separate entity from Morocco and the consent of its people (the Saharawi people and not more recent settlers) required for development and export of resources.  

NZTV covered the issue of New Zealand imports in 2015.

There are two clients of such product in New Zealand: Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients. They have over the last years been reluctant to comment on this issue to media. It is not confirmed which of the two is the importer. WSRW has confronted the two New Zealand importers for a number of years.

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