Western Sahara: Australian company importing phosphate from occupied territory

October 5, 2022
Saharawi refugee camp
Saharawi refugee camp. Photo: Tony Iltis

According to Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), Australian company Incitec Pivot (IPL) confirmed in a meeting with Australian trade unionists on September 27 that it is expecting a delivery of phosphate rock exported by Morocco from occupied Western Sahara.

WSRW reported that the fertiliser company “confirmed that it is the client of the cargo onboard the bulk vessel Clipper Isadora that is currently steaming across the Indian Ocean.

“The vessel is expected to arrive at the port of Geelong on October 15.

“It is the first importation from occupied Western Sahara to Australia and Incitec Pivot since 2016.

“From what WSRW has learned now, the ship contains 33,000 tonnes of phosphate rock plundered by the Moroccan government in the territory that it holds under occupation.

“WSRW first wrote about the incident on September 23, as the vessel informed of its route towards the port of Geelong.

“Incitec Pivot is the only stock-exchange registered company in the world that today purchases the contentious product.”

According to WSRW, IPL told the meeting that it did not exclude the possibility of purchasing more phosphate in the future.

Responding to the company’s admission, Cate Lewis from WSRW in Australia called on international owners to divest from the company.

“Incitec Pivot has obviously not appreciated the ethical and legal aspects of such business practice, nor taken into account the long engagement by its owners in earlier years. It is clearly an unacceptable risk for investors to be part of future incidents if remaining invested in the company,” she said.

WSRW reported that several international banks and asset managers excluded IPL from their portfolios due to the trade from Western Sahara. Some later removed IPL from exclusion lists “as the company had seemingly stopped its importation practice”.

“We live in a world where principles of basic international law are under pressure," Lewis said. "Companies should not undermine these principles by supporting illegal occupations.”

WSRW also reported that the African Court for Human and Peoples' Rights concluded in a landmark ruling on September 22 “that Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara is a serious violation of the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and independence”.

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