Phosphate from Western Sahara – the Back Story
A talk was given at the 3rd Sustainable Phosphorus Summit held in Sydney 29 February-2 March 2012 by Cate Lewis of the Australia Western Sahara Association and Kamal Fadel, representative of Western Sahara in Australia.
As Western Sahara is one of only a few countries holding considerable reserves of phosphate rock, the conference organisers, Dana Cordell and Professor Stuart White invited the participation of Cate and Kamal so that delegates could find out why there is a problem with importing from this country at the present time.
The main points of the talk were firstly that the trade is illegal because the phosphate is being sold by Morocco, which has been occupying Western Sahara since 1975. The phosphate is not Morocco’s to sell and so it cannot pass legal title to importers.
Secondly, the trade is unethical because it gives support to a brutal regime which oppresses and persecutes the Saharawi people. Companies can ensure that they protect human rights and do not contribute to conflict if they follow the OECD due diligence procedure and recognise their responsibilities extend right down the supply chain.
The third reason there is a problem is that the Saharawi people neither consent to nor benefit from this trade. Less than 10% of the workforce at Bou Craa phosphate mine are Saharawi. The best jobs go to Moroccan settlers. Saharawis claim that their own natural resources would provide full employment and would sustain the indigenous population very comfortably.
Experts from 23 countries were present at the conference representing all aspects of the “phosphorus challenge” of how the world will provide sufficient phosphorus for food and agriculture as world supplies run down over time while the population grows. Scientists, agriculturalists, policy makers, water and sanitation engineers, fertiliser businesses and nutritionists attending all contributed in the production of a “Blueprint for Global Phosphorus Security”. This together with papers given at the conference will be posted under “Resources and papers” in coming days on: http://sustainablepsummit.net/