Nutrien maintains Western Sahara link via China

Nutrien - until now the biggest importer of phosphate rock from Western Sahara - has ended its trade. But what about the stock-exchange registered Sinofert Holdings in which they are the second biggest owner?
Published: 27.01 - 2019 14:19Printer version    
Above: The bulk vessel Kiran Adriatic is set to arrive China on 22 February 2019. It is the third vessel to arrive China with phosphate rock during the last months. The picture was taken at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, on 16 January 2019, when the ship was heading towards El Aaiún to load the controversial cargo. Click on photo for high resolution pop-up.

[UPDATE, 27.09.2019. Kiran Adriatic never went to China. Instead, the vessel ended up in New Zealand, where it discharged its cargo in Napier, Timaru, Otago, Tauranga, from 7 to 26 March 2019]

From what Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) understands, the Chinese stock-exchange registered company Sinofert Holdings is now, for the first time, involved in the trade of phosphate rock from Western Sahara.

Sinofert is 22% owned by Nutrien Ltd, and 52,7 percent controlled by the Chinese government-owned Sinochem group.

WSRW on 19 January sent a letter to Sinofert and to its second biggest owner Nutrien, to enquire whether our information about Sinofert's participation in the controversial trade is correct. Neither Sinofert nor Nutrien responded to WSRW's request.

The probable imports to Sinofert Holdings - the first ever - took place on 28 November 2018, as the bulk vessel Trade Resource (IMO 9693410) arrived the port of Lianyungang, China. The vessel had picked up approximately 79000 tonnes of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara on 19 October 2018. Trade Resource is the third biggest vessel ever recorded to have transported phosphate rock from the territory since WSRW started daily monitoring of the traffic.

It does not happen often that new companies engage in such trade with conflict minerals from Western Sahara, a trade which is instrumental in paying for Morocco's costly occupation of the territory.

Since WSRW started its monitoring of the trade in 2011, thirteen enterprises have ended its purchases from Western Sahara, while only four new importers have emerged: Agrium from Canada (which merged into Nutrien, and ended its imports into North America on 31 Dec 2018), Paradip from India (part-owned by OCP, started imports in 2016 and still continues to do so), Coromandel (which has taken in one single shipment in January 2019) and now Sinofert Holdings.

From 2013 until end of 2018, Nutrien took in approximately 50% of all phosphate rock illegally mined in the territory. Obviously, the Moroccan government's state-owned phosphate firm OCP has been keen to replace the disappearing market.

Sinofert Holdings' largest owner, Sinochem, announced on its website on 31 October 2017 that OCP and Sinochem had entered into a 5 year (2017-2021) contract for supplies of phosphate rock, to be executed by Sinofert Holdings Ltd [or download] . The statement did not specify from which mine(s) the rock would be sourced.

From what WSRW has been able to gather, the cargo onboard the Trade Resources was purchased by Sinofert.

Two other recent shipments can possibly also be connected to Sinofert:

  • On 20 January 2019, the vessel Kiran Adriatic (IMO 9653185) departed El Aaiún, Western Sahara. The last known location was registered on 24 January at mid-Atlantic, steaming in south-west direction toward Brazil, but with "China" as registered country of arrival. WSRW does not know of other cases where vessels headed to Asia have taken a route westward across the Pacific Ocean. WSRW knows of no other Chinese importers ever having purchased rock from Western Sahara, and thus consider it probable that Sinofert is the recipient. The picture to the right was taken on Canary Islands three days before it docked at El Aaiun port.
  • On 13 November the vessel Amoy Action (IMO 9583627) departed the port of Paradip, India, heading through the strait of Singapore, to "Sinofert's" port city of Lyanyungang. As it had come to Paradip on 6 November it was transporting phosphate rock from the territory. The draught changed from 13 meters upon arrival Paradip, to 13,2 meters upon departing - in other words, the cargo was heavier when it left Paradip than one week earlier when it had arrived with rock from the Bou Craa mine. Logically speaking, Amoy Action's cargo could have consisted of a partial cargo of unprocessed rock from rock from Western Sahara that were never offloaded, or of phosphate derivatives (perhaps originating from Paradip's earlier Western Sahara imports) processed in Paradip for use by Sinofert and loaded onto the ship in Paradip port. It is worth noticing that the importing company PPL in Paradip is majority owned by the Moroccan exporter in Western Sahara, OCP. In January 2019, a vessel bound for the same OCP-owned PPL in India stopped over in the port of Visakhapatnam where it dropped off a part of its cargo in the way for a new company in the trade, Coromandel International.

    The corporate relationship between Sinofert and Nutrien is described in the latest Nutrien annual report. Nutrien labels Sinofert as the "company’s most significant investment accounted for as FVTOCI".

    Sinofert Holdings is 2,44% owned by the Norwegian government pension fund. The fund, which is the third biggest investor in Sinofert, owns 28 million USD worth of shares. The Norwegian government pension fund has systematically excluded companies involved with long-term supply contracts from the Bou Craa mine since it considers the trade to constitute a "particular serious violation of ethical norms".

    The Vanguard Group, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP, BlackRock Fund Advisors, Macquarie Investment Management Business Trust own each between 0,4 and 0,86 percent of the Sinofert shares each, according to Marketscreener.

    There are today only five clients of phosphate rock from the occupied territory: Paradip (India), Coromandel (India), Sinofert (China), Ballance Agri-Nutrients (New Zealand) and Ravensdown (New Zealand).

    Since you're here....
    WSRW’s work is being read and used more than ever. But our financial situation is tough. Our work takes time, dedication and diligence. But we do it because we believe it matters – and we hope you do to. If everyone who reads our website or likes us on Facebook, would contribute to our work – 3€, 5€, 27€ … what you can spare – the future of WSRW would be much more secure. You can donate to WSRW in less than a minute here.



    08.09 - 2020 / 16.06 - 2020Soon 10 years of wrongful imprisonment: release Gdeim Izik group now
    08.09 - 2020 / 07.09 - 2020DHL: ignoring Saharawi rights for 5 parcels a day
    24.08 - 2020 / 24.08 - 2020Concrete plans for third solar plant in occupied Western Sahara
    10.08 - 2020 / 18.07 - 2020Voltalia to construct wind farm in occupied Western Sahara
    28.07 - 2020 / 22.07 - 2020Will Deutsche Post's AGM provide clarity on Western Sahara operations?
    27.07 - 2020 / 01.07 - 2020New Indian construction company in occupied Western Sahara
    27.07 - 2020 / 20.07 - 2020Continental still unclear about future supplies to Western Sahara
    22.07 - 2020 / 22.06 - 2020Conflict Bitcoin miner keeps silent on Dakhla wind farm plans
    19.07 - 2020 / 13.07 - 2020Siemens yet again evades questions on Western Sahara
    16.07 - 2020 / 29.06 - 2020Namibia slams Spain for failing to respect Saharawi rights
    03.07 - 2020 / 02.07 - 2020Swiss supermarkets ban produce from occupied Western Sahara
    03.07 - 2020 / 11.06 - 2020HeidelbergCement cites local benefits, ignores consent
    02.07 - 2020 / 21.06 - 2020Fishmeal: German government data confirms import controversy
    26.06 - 2020 / 21.06 - 2020Turkey: biggest funder of occupation of Western Sahara
    25.06 - 2020 / 05.05 - 2020These are the vessels that provide fuel for the occupation
    23.06 - 2020 / 22.06 - 2020Protesters set up roadblock to stop conflict minerals in New Zealand
    13.06 - 2020 / 13.06 - 2020WSRW urges shareholders to challenge Continental
    06.06 - 2020 / 06.06 - 2020Norwegian gas transport avoids Western Sahara at last minute
    28.05 - 2020 / 28.05 - 2020World Bank removed erroneous maps
    27.05 - 2020 / 27.04 - 2020Russia-Morocco controversial fisheries deal on the horizon


    Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
    EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


    It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
    Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


    Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation. News Archive 2020 News Archive 2019 News Archive 2018 News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

    Register for our English newsletter:

    These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy