Heidelberg Cement and Cemex, building materials companies from Germany and Mexico respectively are involved in the operation of quarries in the occupied West Bank. The Electronic Intifada has obtained documentation showing loaded trucks leaving the quarries and travelling into Israel. International law prohibits Israel?s exploitation of natural resources in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Syrian Golan Heights for its own benefit.
Israeli-run quarries in the West Bank ? including Nahal Raba and Yatir quarries, which are operated by subsidiaries of Heidelberg Cement and Cemex ? supply almost a quarter of Israel?s construction material.
Heidelberg Cement?s subsidiary Hanson Israel operates the Nahal Raba quarry in the West Bank near the green line ? Israel?s internationally-recognised boundary with the occupied West Bank ? and Kfar Qasim, a Palestinian village in Israel.
Cemex owns 50 percent of Yatir quarry through its subsidiary ReadyMix Industries. The Yatir quarry lies next to the Israeli settlement of Teneh Omarim in the south Hebron hills of the West Bank.
According to a research project by the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, Hanson Israel owns two concrete plants in the West Bank settlements of Modiin Illit and Atarot, and an asphalt plant south of the Elqana settlement.
Meanwhile, ReadyMix owns plants in various Israeli settlements, including Mevo Horon, the Atarot industrial zone and the Mishor Edomim industrial zone, all in the West Bank, and Katzerin in Golan Heights.
ReadyMix also provides concrete elements for the construction of Israel?s wall and military checkpoints in the West Bank and provides concrete for the construction of Israel?s controversial light rail project.
Article 55 of The Hague Regulations of 1907 stipulates (on quarrying) that it ?forbids wasteful or negligent destruction of the capital value, whether by excessive cutting or mining or other abusive exploitation, contrary to the rules of good husbandry?.
Mining companies taken to court
In 2009, the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din filed a petition with the Israeli high court, demanding a halt to illegal mining activity in West Bank quarries, including those operated by Hanson Israel and ReadyMix.
The Yesh Din group charged that 75 per cent of rock and gravel extracted from 11 West Bank quarries was being transferred to Israel in violation of international law. Israel, which seized control of the West Bank in the ?Six Day War? in 1967, refutes the allegation.
According to the petition, the quarrying activities are ?illegal and executed through brutal economic exploitation of occupied territory for the economic needs of the State of Israel, the occupying power?. It claims that nine million tonnes of gravel removed from West Bank quarries annually are being sold in Israel and that the Israeli Civil Administration should stop granting West Bank quarry permits to Israeli and international companies.
International law dictates that an occupying power must manage resources in an occupied territory without damaging them ? a principle also described as ?picking the fruits without cutting down the tree?.
Shlomy Zachary, a lawyer representing Yesh Din, said this principle was impossible to observe in quarrying operations. ?It is an irreparable situation since most of the fruits of the land are being taken and will never be able to be returned,? he said.
In response, the Civil Administration insisted there was no infringement of the law. ?The process of issuing mining permits adheres both to local statute as well as to international law stipulations,? said a spokesman, ?and is anchored in the financial articles of the Israel-Palestinian interim agreement. The quarries’ activities have been rendered legal by the Supreme Court.?
The Israeli high court refused to order a temporary halt to mining activities or stop new mining concessions from being issued. Instead, it requested the response of the parties involved in the petition, which meant that it was business as usual for the companies operating the 11 quarries identified in Yesh Din?s report.
In response, in May 2009, Avi Dicht of the state attorney?s office wrote that the state would freeze the existing situation, including the planning of new quarries, recommending a six-month review. There has been no court action since then, and the mining at both Nahal Raba and Yatir quarry continues.
Dror Etkes, a human rights researcher who initiated and collected the data for the Yesh Din petition, documented how a Volvo truck loaded with construction material left Yatir quarry and entered Israel via Meitar checkpoint on 1 May. According to Etkes, trucks transport construction material from the quarry into Israel several times per day.