With a large fertiliser factory and a brand new port, Morocco will open a new chapter in the controversial saga of its plunder of phosphate rock in occupied Western Sahara.
Tomorrow: WSRW will launch its annual report on the phosphate trade from occupied Western Sahara - P for Plunder 2022 - on 6 April 2022. Follow this website.
Photo above: Taken in 2021, this picture shows what is most likely going to be a new control tower. The construction is made a few hundred meters from where the new phosphate harbour is located, on the north side, at 27°02'21.2"N 13°26'05.3"W.
In 2023, Morocco will have completed a new port and a factory for production of fertilizers in occupied Western Sahara.
The investment includes a new, sheltered port, a wharf, and a large production unit to process the raw phosphates.
“This is bad news for principles of international law. Morocco has absolutely no right to export these minerals from the territory it holds under occupation”, Morten Nielsen of Western Sahara Resource Watch said.
There are fundamentally two problems.
“With a new fertilizer factory, Morocco will be able to export a wider range of phosphate products to new markets that had previously not been dragged into the conflict. This could have political consequences, further undermining the UN peace process that aims to provide self-determination for the Saharawi people. Secondly, Morocco will now be able to earn more from the mine, by exporting more value-added products”, said Nilsen, stressing that it is deeply problematic that international engineering companies have assisted Morocco in its illegal and politically controversial endeavour of plundering the Saharawi people's minerals.
The overall aim of the investment is to diversify Phosboucraa’s operations, from exporting raw material to producing intermediary products and phosphate based fertilisers.
According to the Moroccan state-owned company behind the mine, OCP, the USD 2.2 billion investment envisions the construction of a chemical plant with a production capacity of one million tonnes of fertiliser per year. The facility would be equipped with a sulfuric and a phosphoric acid production unit, and a granulation unit. Parallel to that, a new port would be developed, in addition to a washing unit and storage facilities, while new extraction methods would be introduced at the mining site itself.
A recent official OCP document [or download] confirms that work on the new phosphate port and washing plant is currently ongoing. This is also verified by sources on the ground and satellite images. The company states it is “considering” new storage and handling capacities, a new drying plant dedicated to export and reiterates the intent of developing “a fully integrated fertiliser production unit that is expected to start operations by 2023 with a capacity of one million tonnes”.
In 2020, OCP also reported to be rolling out a reverse flotation process in Bou Craa to enrich phosphate that is of low phosphorous content, to make it economically more viable and exploitable. This corroborates earlier statements by OCP that it has proceeded to exploit deeper layers of the open-pit mine, which are said to be of lower quality.
Apace with the expansion of Phosboucraa’s operations, a scientific hub focussing on the development of “the southern provinces” baptised Technopole is also being developed in Foum El Oued on a 600 ha plot of land.
The main company involved in the construction of the port is Archirodon from Netherlands/Greece. The company reported that its work for Phosboucraa take place in “Morocco”, and were to last from 2019 to 2023 on the basis of a contract worth USD 450 million. Archirodon has not responded to WSRW's letters in 2019 and 2022.
In 2016, the king of Morocco inaugurated a series of structuring projects in and near the phosphate port of El Aaiún, from where OCP currently only exports phosphate rock.
Other companies that are involved in the construction of the new port are:
Other recent involvement related to the port or the exports:
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