The contract of German engineering company Continental that covers maintenance work on the phosphate conveyor belt in occupied Western Sahara expires in five months.
On 10 January 2020, Continental communicated in a letter to Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) that it is presently negotiating the renewal of their maintenance contract with OCP, Morocco’s state-owned phosphate company that manages Morocco’s phosphate reserves, but also exploits the phosphate mine of occupied Western Sahara through its subsidiary Phosboucraa.
Through its own subsidiary ContiTech, Continental has a key-role in the maintenance of the 100 km-long conveyor belt that carries the phosphate rock from the Bou Craa mine out to the sea, from where it is shipped to clients internationally. The current contract between OCP and ContiTech, which encompasses the work on the Western Sahara conveyor belt, expires on 20 June 2020.
Numerous international investors have blacklisted the buyers of these phosphates, as OCP's operation is seen as taking place in violation of international law. The topic was raised at the Continental AGM in 2019.
WSRW had asked Continental whether they would consider inserting a clause in a potentially renewed contract that would bar them from carrying out work outside of Morocco’s internationally recognised borders. The company has now responded that it cannot comment on contractual negotiations.
“We accept the invitation of Continental to remain in dialogue, yet strongly recommend the company to consider the expiration of its current contract with OCP as an opportunity to restrict its scope of work to Morocco proper”, says Sara Eyckmans from WSRW. “A company that refers so strongly to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights has no business in an occupied territory.”
On its website, Continental writes that “We are convinced that a commitment to observing human rights and the strengthening of political freedoms encourage a society's economic development”. However, it is is doing the exact opposite as long as it continues to service Morocco’s national phosphate company in occupied Western Sahara.
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