12 JUNE 2014
Published with generous
financial support from The
Norwegian Confederation of
Trade Unions (LO)
BERSERK PRODUCTIONS (P.1),
WSRW.ORG (P.2, 3, 19, 20, 27, 28),
ROBIN MAINDONALD (P.18A),
RICK VOICE (P.18B),
JOHN TORDAI (P.25)
World’s longest conveyor belt
transports phosphate rock from
Bou Craa mines to the coast.
The report can be freely reused, in
print or online. For comments or
questions on this report contact
Western Sahara Resource Watch
(WSRW) is an international
organisation based in Brussels.
WSRW is working in solidarity with
the people of Western Sahara,
researching and campaigning against
Morocco’s resource plundering of
To strengthen our research and
intensify our international campaigns
WSRW need your help. Find WSRW
payment details on www.wsrw.org.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS:
For the first time, Western Sahara Resource Watch now
publishes a detailed overview of the companies involved in the
purchases of the phosphates from occupied Western Sahara.
The phosphate rock is illegally exploited by the Moroccan
government in Western Sahara, a territory that it is brutally
occupying. The exports are Morocco’s main source of income
from the occupied territories. Representatives of the Saha-
rawis have been consistently outspoken against the trade,
both in the UN, generally and to specific companies.
The list we present in this report is complete for the
calendar years of 2012 and 2013 to the best of our knowledge,
naming nearly all the shipments of the phosphates from occu-
pied Western Sahara. This report attributes the purchases of
Morocco’s production in Western Sahara in 2013 to ten named
and two unknown importers in ten countries internationally.
The two companies PotashCorp (US) and Lifosa (Lithuania),
alone, accounted for 50% percent of all purchases.
The report details a total exported volume from Western
Sahara in 2013 at 2,2 million tonnes, with an estimated value of
$330 million, shipped in 48 bulk vessels. That is an increase of
400,000 tonnes from 2012, the report shows.
Of the ten named companies identified as importing phos-
phates in 2013, six are listed on international stock exchanges
or are majority owned by enterprises which are listed. Four of
those have been subject to blacklistings by ethically concerned
investors due to this trade on grounds of human rights or
international law. The Canadian company Agrium started its
imports only in September 2013, and has thus yet not been
subject to known investor exclusions.
Of the remaining four companies not registered on any
stock exchange, two are farmer owned cooperatives in New
Zealand, while the two remaining are fully or partially owned
by the Government of Venezuela.
In addition to naming the involved companes in a “red list”,
this report also identifies potential buyers in a yellow “obser-
vation list”, as well as a “green list” of companies previously
associated with such trade, but which no longer purchase.
WSRW calls on all companies involved in the trade
immediately halt all purchases of Western Sahara phosphates
until a solution to the conflict has been found. Investors are
requested to engage, or divest unless action is taken.
ognised by any state, nor by the UN. Its claims were rejected
by the International Court of Justice.
The UN Legal Office has analysed the legality of the
a resource extraction activity – one now in its exploration
stages – that is of a similar nature. The UN concluded that “if
further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed
in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of
Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the international
law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in
Yet, only weeks after the 1975 invasion of the territory,
was being exported to fertilizer companies in North America,
Latin America, Europe and Australasia. The Bou Craa mine is
managed by the Office Chérifien des Phosphates SA (OCP),
Morocco’s national phosphate company and is today Morocco’s
biggest source of income in Western Sahara.
Phosphates de Boucraa S.A. (Phosboucraa) is a fully
owned subsidiary of OCP. Its main activities are the extraction,
beneficiation, transportation and marketing of phosphate ore
of the Bou Craa mine, as well as the port and treatment plant
located on the Atlantic coast, at El Aaiun. OCP claims that the
Bou Craa mines represent 1.6% of the phosphate reserves
exploited by Morocco.
employer in the area, with over 2100 employees – more than
half of those are said to be locally recruited. It also claims
that Phosboucraa is a major provider of economic viability and
well-being of the region’s inhabitants. OCP equally boasts the
social impact of Phosboucraa, in terms of providing pensions to
retirees, medical and social advantages to employees, retirees
and their families, etc.
Upon making these claims, several of the importers
analyses made by the law firms Covington & Burling and DLA
Piper, as well as to an audit report by KPMG. WSRW has asked
the importers, as well as Covington & Burling and OCP for cop-
ies of these assessments, but the requests have been rejected
or not answered.
Saharawis have asked OCP for these reports
the requests are not answered. OCP has even proceeded to
demand that Youtube block a video in which a Saharawi asks
for the opinion from their law firm.
Representatives of the
the OCP reports makes them impossible to verify. All suggest
that Saharawis have not been consulted in the making of the
terms of reference for such reports.
Swedish government pension fund, AP-Fonden, upon exclusion of
PotashCorp and Incitec Pivot from its portfolios.
The largest bank in Denmark, Danske Bank, upon divesting from
Norwegian insurance company KLP regarding its divestments
“Since this concerns non-renewable
The Ethical Council of the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, 15
November 2010, explaining the $ 350 US million divestment from
PotashCorp and FMC Corp.
Western Sahara’s phosphate reserves are discovered 130
kilometres southeast of El Aaiun in a place called Bou Craa.
The discovery of phosphate reserves is the first potential
source of mineral revenues for the colonial power Spain.
The Empresa Nacional Minera del Sahara is founded in order
to operate the mines, which are owned by a Spanish public
industrial sector company.
The company is renamed Fosfatos de Bucraa, S.A., also known
as Fos Bucraa.
The Spaniards start to operate the mines. Many Spaniards
find employment in the mines, as did the Saharawis; the
native population of the Spanish Sahara, as the territory is
known at the time.
A UN mission that was sent to Spanish Sahara in view of
an expected referendum predicts that Western Sahara could
very well become the world’s second largest exporter of
phosphates, after Morocco.
Mounting international pressure to decolonise force Spain
to come up with a withdrawal strategy from Spanish Sahara.
Maintaining a claim on the phosphate deposits was a key
consideration for the colonial power. Failing to decolonise
Western Sahara properly, by allowing the people of the
territory to exercise their right to self-determination, Spain
strikes a deal with Morocco: through the Madrid Accords.
Spain illegally transfers the administration over the territory
onto Morocco and Mauritania, while retaining a 35% share
of the Bou Craa mines. No state in the world, the UN, nor
the people of Western Sahara, recognised the transfer of
authority from Spain to the two states. Mauritania withdrew
in 1979, admitting it had been wrong.
Simultaneously, recouping his authority after two failed
coups d’état, Morocco’s King Hassan II orders the Moroccan
army to invade Western Sahara. The King may have hoped
that this would give Morocco as much leverage to determine
world phosphate prices as OPEC has over oil prices.
The Madrid Accords come into effect and after a transition
period of 16 months OCP would take over the management
of the mines.
Spain sells its 35% ownership of Bou Craa.
Morocco continues to operate the mine in occupied
Extraction from Bou Craa is according to OCP between 2,5 to
3 million m³ a year, while stock is estimated at 1,1 billion m³.
tonnes in 2012, and 2,2 million tonnes in 2013.
Until 2006 export of phosphate rock averaged 1.1 million
tonnes annually, considerably less than a production capacity
of 3.0 million tonnes. In the late 1970s, production stopped for
three years during armed conflict in the territory, only gradually
achieving 2.0 million tonnes by the late 1990s. From 2009
through 2013 production and export has averaged 2.3 to 2.5
million tonnes annually.
Bou Craa today contributes around 10% of OCP’s total
sales of phosphate rock.
An investment and development program worth 2,45 billion US
$ has been developed by OCP for the period 2012-2030. In that
timeframe, the program will aim to modernize the Bou Craa
mine, develop deeper phosphate layers, create higher add-
ed-value products for exports, increase the El Aaiun harbour
capacity for phosphate activities and expand the social and
sustainable development projects in the Bou Craa area.
OCP states that, as part of its long-term investment
as mining investments (worth around 250 million US $) that will
include the building of a flotation/washing unit and upgrading
of extraction equipment; new infrastructure to extract lower
Phosphate is a vital component of the fertilisers on which
much of the global food production and food security depends.
For some time there has been concern about the world
population’s reliance on a finite supply of phosphorus, and the
implications of this for agricultural productivity, food prices and
nutrition, particularly in developing countries. The term “peak
phosphorus” has joined the concept of “peak oil” in the lexicon
of 21st century scarcity. There are no substitutes for phospho-
rus in agriculture.
Morocco, when Western Sahara is included, holds the
producer of phosphates in the world.
The increasing global need for phosphate rock and
market prices of rock since 2008. As global food demand and
food prices have increased, there has been an added demand
for phosphate. This price trend remained constant from 2011
through early 2013 before declining steadily from a start-of-
year $180/tonne to $105/tonne at year-end. In this report, the
average price of phosphate in 2013 is calculated at $150/tonne.
The average price in 2012 is calculated at $185/tonne.
Exported amount of phosphate
Value of exported phosphate
Estimated cost of production
Estimated revenue to OCP
Value of largest single shipment from the territory
Value of smallest single shipment from the territory
Number of ships that departed with phosphate from the territory
Average amount of phosphate exported in each ship
Average value of phosphate exported in each ship
Average annual phosphate price of Bou Craa rock used in
calculation in this report
This report is made from data gathered
through continuous vessel tracking.
Phosphate prices were obtained from the
commercial commodities pricing website
“Index Mundi” and checked against other
sources. The amounts of phosphate loaded
into ships are generally calculated to be 95%
of the ship’s overall cargo (and bunker fuel)
capacity expressed in deadweight tonnes
(DWT). In cases where ships were less than
40,000 DWT the 95% factor was reduced
to account for a higher relative amount of
fuel and provisions. Ships were tracked
and confirmed to have arrived at stated
WSRW believes that is has detected and
accounted for all vessels departing from El
Aaiun harbour for 2012 and 2013. However,
WSRW cannot exclude that some vessels
have not been detected. Vessels from
1 October 2011 to 31 December 2011 are also
listed in the Appendix.