Incitec Pivot receives new shipment of Saharawi phosphate
On Saturday 10 July Star Canopus docked in Geelong with an illegal cargo of phosphate from Western Sahara on board. This is the first shipment in over a year since Incitec Pivot closed their fertiliser plant down in June 2009, due to a slump in demand for superphosphate.
In a bid to placate local residents who complain about the pollution the plant causes, the company is holding a community liaison meeting on Tuesday 13 July. By then, the new load of phosphate will be on its way to being processed into the company’s superphosphate product called Superfect. The ship will proceed on 15 July to Incitec Pivot’s other plant in Portland, Victoria where it is due to deliver more phosphate rock from Bou Craa in occupied Western Sahara.
At the company’s last Annual General Meeting on 23 December 2009, the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) protested about its trade in phosphate from the last African colony, Western Sahara, handing out a leaflet explaining why Superfect is a problem product and very far from perfect.
“The problem is that the phosphate is sold for Morocco’s gain and without the consent of the Saharawi people”, says Cate Lewis of AWSA. Instead Morocco, which claims to be the administering power, should, according to international law, be holding the natural resources of the territory in trust for the Saharawi people. “When they decide in a referendum how they wish to be governed, then trade in the phosphate can resume”, Cate went on. “The ethical thing for companies like Incitec Pivot to do is to put their phosphate imports from Western Sahara on hold until the conflict is resolved.”
Despite the fact that ethical investment companies have been blacklisting Incitec Pivot on account of this trade, the company defends its stand. The company's chairman John Watson said they look to the Australian government to give the lead on the question of trade with Morocco and to the United Nations to solve the long-running dispute over Western Sahara.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade notes that given the status of Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, there are international law considerations with importing natural resources sourced from the Western Sahara. We recommend that companies seek legal advice before importing such material.
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.
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