Israeli and Palestinian protest groups claim they have 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 West Bank — and Kfar Qasim, a Palestinian village in Israel.
Cemex owns 50 per cent 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. ReadyMix also provides concrete elements for the construction of Israel’s wall and military checkpoints in the West Bank.
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”.
In 2009, the Israeli human rights organisation 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 were “illegal and executed through brutal economic exploitation of occupied territory for the economic needs of the State of Israel, the occupying power”. It claimed that nine million tonnes of gravel removed from West Bank quarries annually was 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.
Sources: Aggregate Research