Photo above: The bulk vessel Doric Samurai is one of four bulk carriers which Agrium has received since our last correspondence with the company. Doric Samurai is here seen discharging phosphates from Western Sahara in Vancouver harbour, May 2016. Photo: Rick Voice.
Western Sahara Resource Watch today sent a letter to Agrium Inc, the Canadian large-scale importer of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara. Since Agrium first imported from the territory in 2013, it has been the largest importer of phosphates from Western Sahara,
"The available evidence suggests that Agrium has failed to seek the consent of the people of the territory, something underscored by Agrium’s lack of will to respond to questions relating to the seeking of such consent and to questions relating to the legal nature of the territory", WSRW wrote to Agrium today.
The letter also repeats questions that the company has so far failed to respond to:
(1) Would Agrium agree that the people of Western Sahara have a right to self-determination as defined by international law and the 1990-91 referendum agreement of the UN, Morocco and the Frente Polisario? (2) Does Agrium agree with the conclusion of the International Court of Justice that there are no ties to sovereignty between the kingdom of Morocco and the territory of Western Sahara? (3) Does Agrium accept the 2015 conclusion of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) about the principle of the prior, free and informed consent of the Saharawis in relation to the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources? (4) How will the company assure itself of a credible consent of the Saharawi people prior to any more imports from Western Sahara? (5) Does Agrium accept the 2015 conclusion of the Court of Justice of the European Union that Morocco has no mandate to administer Western Sahara? (6) What does Agrium say in reply to the 2015 legal opinion of the African Union about the exploitation of occupied Western Sahara’s natural resources?
WSRW also urges the company "to immediately and unconditionally stop the purchases of phosphates from occupied Western Sahara."
Since the previous correspondence between Agrium and WSRW in January-February 2016, the company has purchased four vessels with a combined volume of about 230.000 tonnes of phosphates. A fifth vessel, Navios Vega, is currently in Rio de Janeiro carrying Western Sahara phosphates, also possibly on the way to Vancouver, around the south tip of South America. This fifth vessel is so far not confirmed for Agrium. With such a trend, the Agrium imports for 2016 will surpass its 2015 purchases.
Read about Agrium's 2015 imports, and the controversies surrounding the trade, in our report P for Plunder. In 2014 and 2015 combined, Agrium imported around 40% more than the second biggest importer from Western Sahara, PotashCorp.
The trend is that fewer and fewer companies registered on international stock-exchanges take part in the trade. Only three such companies are today active: Agrium Inc, PotashCorp and Incitec Pivot. The exports of phosphates is Morocco's biggest source of income from the part of the territory of Western Sahara which it has held under foreign occupation since 1975.
Half the people of the territory live as refugees in camps in Algeria, following the invasion. They see their national wealth disappear while in exile.
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.
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.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
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