New Zealand farmers last remaining importers of conflict mineral?
Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) today published its fifth annual overview of companies involved in the purchase and transport of phosphate rock exploited illegally by Morocco in the territory it holds under military occupation: Western Sahara.
The report details all shipments of Western Sahara’s white gold to importers worldwide for the calendar year 2017. New Zealand based farmers’ cooperatives Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Ravensdown have together imported an estimated 333,000 tonnes of the contentious rock, to the tune of about US $ 30 million.
“More and more importers are dropping their purchases of rock from Western Sahara, or are announcing their intent to do so in 2018. It is perplexing to observe that we are evolving into a situation where the main responsible for providing Morocco with income from its continued illegal exploitation of occupied Western Sahara’s phosphate mine, are not large multinationals, but New Zealand farmers”, says Erik Hagen of WSRW.
A remarkable development of 2017 was the arrest in South Africa of a vessel carrying phosphate rock from Western Sahara to Ballance Agri-Nutrients, and the South African High Court placing rightful ownership of the cargo in the exiled government of Western Sahara. The effect on the trade has been noticeable. Three previously long-term importers seemingly sopped buying after this incident, and the usual shipping routes have shifted to avoid Cape of Good Hope.
The phosphate court cases come on the back of the two judgments by the highest Court of the European Union, establishing that since Western Sahara is not part of Morocco, no EU Trade, Association or Fisheries Agreement with Morocco can be applied to the territory.
The European Union has recently taken measures to limit the cadmium-rate in phosphate-based fertilizers. By 2030, phosphate rock from Morocco (and Western Sahara) will no longer be allowed in the EU single market, as the cadmium level of phosphate rock in North Africa in general is much higher than the allowed ratio.
WSRW has contacted both Ballance and Ravensdown regarding their continued imports, but the firms did not respond.
Faced with increasing tensions on the ground and calls for resumed armed conflict, the UN Security Council is later this month expected to prolong the UN mission in the territory, and to launch an appeal to the parties to the conflict to firmly commit to the UN-led peace talks. New Zealand presently sits on the Security Council.
WSRW calls upon the New Zealand farmers to immediately halt all further imports from the last colony in Africa, until a solution to the conflict has been found and the Saharawi people have been assured the exercise of their fundamental right to self-determination. Investors are requested to engage or divest unless companies commit clearly to withdrawing from the trade.