First EU imports of conflict minerals in 5 years

The Swiss-Russian company EuroChem was most likely behind a controversial imports of conflict minerals to Estonia in October. 

02 November 2021

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) was present when the cargo ship Nazenin offloaded phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara in the Estonian port of Sillamäe on 18 October 2021. The phosphate rock can be seen on the photos below, in the form of piles of yellow material lying in the port. 

The incident is the first time a shipment of phosphate arrives in Europe since October 2016, when a cargo of the conflict mineral was shipped to the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda. The same company is seemingly behind both incidents. It is the first known export of conflict minerals from occupied Western Sahara to Estonia ever recorded. 

EuroChem is a Russian-owned company headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, with production facilities in several countries internationally. Their subsidiary in Lithuania - Lifosa - used to import from Western Sahara for decades, until the trade stopped in 2016. 

EuroChem wrote at the time that "increasing the Group's self-sufficiency in phosphate rock has been a priority for both strategic and social considerations" and that "likely to be of interest to Western Sahara Resource Watch, we can inform you that [...] the Group does not intend to purchase phosphate rock from Western Sahara in 2016 or at any time over the foreseeable future".

However, the new transport contradicts this statement. 

Last year, EuroChem opened its €70 million brand new port terminal in Sillamäe, Estonia. WSRW contacted EuroChem on 13 October, 21 October and 25 October, but has not received a response. 

WSRW observed the phosphate being loaded over to awaiting trucks, which shuttled between the ship and the EuroChem facility. The Estonian news site Delfi yesterday wrote about the imports

In a telephone conversation with Estonian media, a local employee of EuroChem confirmed that Nazenin's transport had arrived to EuroChem. However, the company ignored the journalist's further questions, although they had promised to answer them.

EuroChem not only has a fertilizer factory inside the Sillamäe port itself, but also has logistics services via rail or truck to Europe and Russia. 

Nazenin is a Marshall Islands flagged ship, capable of transporting 33,663 deadweight tonnes. The cargo left the phosphate terminal in occupied Western Sahara on 5 October. EuroChem is owned by the Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko.  

Download high resolution here. Photo: Andres Putting/Ekspress Meedia
Download high resolution here. Photo: Andres Putting/Ekspress Meedia
Download high resolution here. Photo: Andres Putting/Ekspress Meedia


Download high resolution here. Photo: WSRW, no credit needed.


New report: Western Sahara phosphate trade halved

The export of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara has never been lower than in 2019. This is revealed in the new WSRW report P for Plunder, published today.

24 February 2020

Eurochem's reply to WSRW - 4 February 2020

In response to WSRW's letter to EuroChem of 3 December 2019, the company responded not to have imported in 2019 and having no plans to do so in the future.
04 February 2020

EuroChem letter to WSRW, 28.03.2018 - sent 05.04.2018

EuroChem's reply of 28 March 2018 to WSRW, stating they "have no plans to purchase supplies from Western Sahara". EuroChem's subsidiary Lifosa AB received its last shipment of the conflict mineral in October 2016, despite earlier statements they'd halt all further imports from the territory.
03 December 2019