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BHP Urged To Dump Unethical Phosphate Trade

BHP Urged To Dump Unethical Phosphate Trade In Its Takeover Of Potashcorp

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

President of AWSA, Lyn Allison, said “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.”

WSRW has asked for an urgent meeting with BHP in Melbourne, to discuss the human rights element of the possible take-over.

The Canadian fertiliser company is a major importer of phosphate from the disputed territory of Western Sahara occupied by Morocco.

AWSA is the local member of the Western Sahara Resource Watch international network covering 36 countries around the world asking corporations to cease exploiting Western Sahara’s natural resources until the decolonisation process is complete. Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975, as Indonesia did in East Timor and Iraq in Kuwait.

The Canadian fertiliser company PotashCorp is today the biggest importer of phosphate rock from the territory of Western Sahara, occupied by Morocco. By ignoring calls from investors and WSRW over the trade, PotashCorp has been blacklisted by ethically-minded investors in Europe. Now, this human rights issue could end on BHP’s table.

“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”, former senator, Lyn Allison, said.

BHP in the 1980s withdrew from oil exploration in the territory due to the political situation.

“We believe that with this track-record, BHP will be in a position to put a stop to the unethical trade if taking over PotashCorp. It does not want to be associated with this illegal and unethical trade”, stated Allison.

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. “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,” said Cate Lewis of WSRW.

“On 2 August and 9 August peaceful demonstrations on this very topic were held outside the Ministry of Mines & Energy in El Aaiun (capital of occupied Western Sahara)” she added, “these were broken up brutally by the Moroccan security forces”, see:
http://www.wsrw.org/index.php?parse_news=single&cat=105&art=1554

British press on BHP takeover bid and human rights
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/potash-bid-drags-bhp-into-saharan-fight-2058622.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/aug/22/bhp-billiton-potash-corp-western-sahara

Reuters has reported the story as well:

http://af.reuters.com/article/metalsNews/idAFLDE67L07L20100822

Further information:
http://www.wsrw.org/
http://www.awsa.org.au/

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