Published 14 March 2019
14 March 2019
To the attention of Mr Mark Wynne
Chief Executive Officer of Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd
Re. Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd’s 2018 imports of phosphate rock from Western Sahara
Dear Mr Wynne,
Another calendar year completed, another chance to present you with our compliments and ask Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd about its imports from Western Sahara during that year.
In good annual tradition, WSRW will publish its yearly “P for Plunder” report in the coming weeks, documenting the phosphate trade from Western Sahara during the previous calendar year. Regrettably, Ballance will once again be featured in that report. As such, we would be grateful for your answers and comments to the questions included below.
According to our calculations, an estimated 227,500 tonnes of phosphate rock from Western Sahara was purchased by Ballance in 2018, worth approximately US$ 19.3 million. For 2018, it would appear that Ballance is one of the handful of remaining importers of the contentious phosphate rock from the last colony in Africa.
As we have repeatedly submitted to Ballance, the imports have never taken place in accordance with the wishes of the people of Western Sahara, and thus did not respect their right to self-determination which applies to their homeland’s resources. Instead, Ballance’s continued purchase has provided the Moroccan government with income in the territory it holds under occupation.
It has become clear that Ballance chooses to ignore these concerns.
In February 2018, the South African High Court ruled that the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is the owner of the whole cargo of phosphate rock aboard the NM Cherry Blossom, and that the ownership of the phosphate had never been lawfully vested with OCP and/or Phosboucraa, which “were, and are, not entitled to sell the phosphate to Ballance Agri-Nutrients”. The judgment was rooted in international law, and echoes the opinion of the International Court of Justice and several Judgments by the Court of Justice of the European Union – all unequivocally concluding that Morocco has no claim to Western Sahara.
We note that Ballance has not acted on the Judgment: it continues to import as before, but now avoids South Africa on the conflict minerals’ route to New Zealand. Ironically, Ballance itself did seek legal remedy when a competing firm issued an advertisement referring to phosphate from occupied Western Sahara as “blood phosphate”.
Statements in New Zealand media attributed to CEO Mark Wynne make it clear that the company is aware of the Western Sahara conflict, yet does not sense any accountability and rather defers all responsibility onto the UN peace process – which it is actively undermining by backing up one party to the conflict, the aggressor nonetheless, while demonstrating complete disregard to the other party, the one with an actual legal right to the land harbouring the phosphate reserves. And while it is understandable that a company may have a specific need for a certain type of phosphate rock, we’d wish to point out that this argument was used by literally all importing companies that have since ended their involvement in the trade of the contentious mineral, and have either sought other sources or have restructured their production process so as to diminish the dependency on the conflictual rock.
We assume Ballance has taken note of the EU’s decision of November 2018 to cap cadmium levels in fertilizers at 60mg/kg. European decision-makers, which are at odds with Russia over geopolitical interests in Ukraine, were able to put that aside in the spirit of public health. Phosphate and derivates thereof from Morocco and Western Sahara have a much higher cadmium content, and will thus no longer be welcome on the EU market, to the benefit of producers in Russia, Norway and South Africa.
We’d be grateful if you could respond to the following questions:
1. Can you confirm that Ballance Agri-Nutrients has purchased 227,500 tonnes of phosphate rock from Western Sahara during the year 2018?
2. What has your company done to obtain the express consent of the people of Western Sahara to the imports of phosphate rock from their country?
3. How does Ballance Agri-Nutrients explain its imminent position as one of only remaining importers of the commodity?
4. Has Ballance Agri-Nutrients communicated the high levels of carcinogenic elements in the imported rock to the end-users?
5. In a meeting with your company on 30 November 2018, the New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth asked you to actively seek alternative sources of phosphate. What has your company done in that regard?
We think it is in your interest to review your company’s purchases from Western Sahara and halt all further imports. It is astounding to observe that the trade in Western Sahara phosphate rock is evolving into a situation where the main responsible for providing Morocco with income of its continued and illegal occupation of part of its neighbouring country, are not stock-registered companies but rather New Zealand based farmer cooperatives, such as Ballance Agri-Nutrients. We sincerely hope you will reconsider.
Western Sahara Resource Watch
A copy of this letter was sent to:
- Prime Minister of New Zealand, Ms Jacinda Ardern
- UN Special Representative for Western Sahara and Head of UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, Mr Colin Stewart
- Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Western Sahara, Mr Horst Köhler