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Canadian Company POTASH CORPORATION OF S.INC. (Now NUTRIEN INC) illegal activities in Western Sahara

The vessel Double Rejoice loading phosphate at the pier in El Aaiun, occupied Western Sahara, 5 December 2012. The vessel headed then to PotashCorp, US. In the background is a queue of bulk vessels waiting to load.

Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (PotashCorp) is the company with the longest track record of importing from the occupied territory; upon acquiring Arcadian Corp in 1996, PotashCorp also inherited the firm’s 1980s import contract with OCP. PotashCorp has been purchasing Saharawi phosphate rock for two uninterrupted decades. In 2018, PotashCorp completed the merger with Agrium Inc, and launched Nutrien Inc – which thus inherited the legacy companies’ phosphate imports from Western Sahara. Up to the merger, PotashCorp was headquartered in Saskatchewan, Canada, and was registered on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX – PCS). The company‘s phosphoric acid plant in Geismar, Louisiana, USA, is where phosphate rock from Western Sahara is imported and processed. The company’s long-term agreements with the Moroccan state-owned firm OCP have been adopted by Nutrien. While Nutrien has announced it would terminate the Western Sahara imports through the Agrium legacy firm by the end of 2018, the firm has not yet decided on how it will proceed with the imports taken in through the legacy company PotashCorp.65 In 2017, PotashCorp purchased around 382,000 tonnes of phos- phate rock from occupied Western Sahara, worth approximately US $34 million. The imported volume presents a significant increase from the 287,000 tonnes the company took in during 2016. PotashCorp’s 2017 imports came in five shipments, at more or less at regular intervals, ostensibly to meet a constant demand for phosphorus in the manufac- turing of food products. Through the years, PotashCorp has several times changed its position statement on Western Sahara, entitled “Phosphate Rock from Western Sahara”. The sixth and most recent revision was published in November 2016.66 In it, PotashCorp attempts to defend its imports from Western Sahara by repeating the Moroccan government mantra that it permissible to exploit the Bou Craa mines as long as the “local popula- tion” stands to gain some benefits through the activity. The company has previously referred to EU agreements to defend this stance, but it has from 2016 stopped mentioning the EU altogether. PotashCorp also maintains that its involvement is non-political. The company claims it can- not cease importing because of contractual commitments and because doing so would involve a “political judgment” that could determine the “economic well-being of the region”. PotashCorp neglects to mention the cornerstone principle of self-determination in its position paper.

In February 2018, WSRW asked Nutrien whether it has sought the consent of the Saharawi people for the imports by PotashCorp in 2017, as dictated by the CJEU, and how the company assesses the value of those imports in the view of the increased legal risks associated to them.67Nutrien did not respond. In an earlier reply, legacy company PotashCorp dodged the question altogether, instead reiterating its conviction that OCP’s operations “provide economic and social benefits to the Saharawi people”. PotashCorp sees itself as a positive influence to OCP’s behavior. “Any decision to cease doing business in the region on the basis of a political judgment could undermine the economic well-being of the region”, the firm asserted.

Source:WSRW- Western Sahara Resource Watch: Download the full report here.


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