Western Sahara: BHP urged to dump phosphate trade

The Australia Western Sahara Association has urged BHP-Billiton to suspend Canadian company PotashCorp’s trade in phosphate from Western Sahara if its takeover bid is successful.

AWSA president Lyn Allison said in an August 25 statement: “If BHP cares anything for business ethics, social responsibility and international law, it will not allow the Canadian fertiliser corporation to buy further Western Saharan phosphate from Morocco.”

Since 1975, Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara. A 1991 United Nations-sponsored ceasefire between Morocco and Saharawi independence fighters was accompanied by the promise for a referendum on Saharawi self-determination.

However, Morocco has since refused to hold the referendum.

The Canadian fertiliser company is a big importer of phosphate from Western Sahara.

AWSA is a member of Western Sahara Resource Watch, an international network asking corporations to cease exploiting Western Sahara’s natural resources while it remains occupied.

PotashCorp is today the biggest importer of phosphate rock from Western Sahara. By ignoring calls from investors and WSRW over the trade, PotashCorp has been blacklisted by ethically-minded investors in Europe.

Allison said: “The Moroccan export of phosphates from the territory contributes to
financing the occupation and appears to condone the poor human rights situation in Western Sahara.

“BHP should know that it is entering into very unethical territory upon acquiring PotashCorp.”

In 2002, the UN legal department’s head, Hans Corell, delivered a legal opinion saying that two conditions must be satisfied for any exploitation of resources to be legal: it must follow the wishes of the Saharawi people and the trade must be to their benefit.

Cate Lewis of WSRW said: “We know of no attempt by the Moroccan phosphate company OCP to seek the consent of the Saharawi people to export these phosphates.

“On the other hand, we are well aware of their constant protests against the plunder of their natural resources.”

[Visit www.awsa.org.au for more information.]

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