NZ companies shamed for 'morally indefensible' mining shipment

NZ companies shamed for 'morally indefensible' mining shipment
African groups have accuse NZ of violating international law (file)

New Zealand companies have been shamed after a ship bound for New Zealand carrying allegedly illegally mined phosphate mineral rock was seized in South Africa.

The phosphate, weighing an estimated 54,000 tonnes, and worth over NZ$7 million, was to be used in making agricultural fertilizer.

However it came from an area of Western Sahara under armed occupation by Morocco.

The ship has been held up at South Africa's Port Elizabeth by a civil maritime court order after an independence movement complained about the shipment.

The government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and the Saharawi national liberation movement, the Polisario Front, have been protesting what they say is the illegal mining and export of phosphate rock.

They say New Zealand's involvement in the trade is "morally indefensible".

"We have tried to patiently engage with the companies involved, and with some we have prevailed. The New Zealand companies are responsible for a substantial share of the trade," says the Polisario Front's Emhamed Khadad.

"The mining and export of what is a non-renewable resource from a place under occupation where the UN has tried to pursue the peaceful assurance of a basic right to the Saharawi people is wrong on many levels.

"It is a violation of well-settled principles of international law. It is morally indefensible. And it's bad business."