Critical Raw Materials

For their EURO-VISION project, FRAUD have explored the extractive gaze European institutions and policies through the lens of 'critical raw materials', a phrase used by governmental bodies to designate resources of significant importance and/or rareness, which are held to be integral to the reproduction of the status quo. Expanding this concept beyond forms commonly understood as 'raw materials', FRAUD are exploring four 'critical raw materials': phosphate, sand, fisheries, and labour. Their exploration of phosphate has been supported by Radar as part of its Risk Related series of commissions: here, they bring it into dialogue with three other 'critical raw materials' of particular concern for them.


Phosphate is listed twice in the EU CRM list, appearing under 'phosphate rock' and 'phosphorus'. Phosphorus is mainly made from phosphate rock, and phosphate is made of phosphorus atoms combined with oxygen. Phosphate rock is a finite, non-manufacturable resource whose global demand was carved by the Green Revolution’s need for synthetic fertilizer. It is now a resource critical for the normal operation of agro-business. 71% of the world’s fertiliser comes from Western Sahara, with most of this coming from the Bou Craa mine. Western Sahara was occupied by Morocco immediately after gaining independence from Spain in 1975. Franco's regime sold its occupied territories for fisheries' rights and phosphate operations in the Bou Craa mines. Global dependency on this mineral is thus tightly embroiled with (im)possibility of self-determination for the Saharawi people, who have largely lived in exile, in camps along the Algerian border, since 1975.

As a means of 'staying with the trouble' of conflict minerals we are working with Sandie Dann of Loughborough University's Chemistry Department to develop a phosphorescent pigment made with the phosphate used in UK fertiliser which is mined in Bou Craa. In addition to considering the genealogy of this conflict mineral, we are exploring the decoupling of chemical fertiliser dependencies. For example, dovecotes, previously used to collect fertiliser, can become a relevant model at a time where soil impoverishment (due to intensive agriculture and chemical fertilisers) is considered a major environmental and food security risk.


We have been exploring the links between tourism and extraction, developing a critical spatial literacy, Jable Pardo - Viele Grüße aus Canaria - into the illegal mining of sand in Western Sahara, which is used to adorn the tourist beaches of the Canary Islands. We melted this sand into glass, in the shape of the Canarian gánigo, falsely claimed in the Franco era to be a relative of Saharan ceramics. The Hispanic claims over the Canary Archipelago served to validate the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco and Western Sahara. The vessel replicas are a testimony to the collapsing of extractive operations, the weaponizing of archaeological evidences, and tourism-led development as propaganda during Spain's Francoist Regime. For Spain, archaeological evidences glowed bright with extractivism.  As a testament to Eurafrica rebranded, 'Jable Pardo' apprehends the Sahara region as the ultimate crucible providing resources for the European integration project.


Marine resources are in a state of global collapse. In 2016, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared 89.05% of global fish stocks to be either fully fished or overfished. In parallel, due to overexploitation in coastal waters at home, the European Union negotiates Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs) with third countries, which have led to devastating effects upon ‘extra-Mediterranean’ marine life, such as the exhaustion of fish stocks, local fisheries and traditional knowledges. Currently at the centre of what has been dubbed the new Gold Rush, the coasts of Africa have also been historically very rich in fish stock. Here, it is useful to consider the genealogy of cross-continental agreements, and how they shape the contemporary topography of fishery agreements. To this effect, we have been developing 'Partnerships', forms of counter-architectures that cultivate the active, intercultural and critical building of a decolonial cosmogony. 


Through art-led enquiry, this forthcoming branch aims to open up a critical conversation around European colonial legacies in Northern Africa (i.e Eurafrica), which continue today through extractive practices and free trade. As borders are vigorously reified internationally, free trade deals are being negotiated with even greater fervour. The latter prescribe the flow of goods, in stark opposition to the freedom of movement which is rapidly revoked and violently enforced. Are trade and migration policy intrinsically linked? And if so, how are they mobilising each other?  €uro-Vision investigates how extraction, trade and migration are related through Free Trade Zones and Time Zones. Free Trade Zones (FTZ) are zones of economic exception, in which companies (mostly European) receive benefits unauthorised elsewhere. Often these come in the form of lower regulations regarding environmental and labour protection and null or very low tax rates for export. Stay tuned for the inauguration of our own time zone!...


Project Partners

Dr Sandie Dann

Professor in Materials Chemistry
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Related Projects

Risk Related

A series of commissions exploring risk and its social, ecological and economic relations. Read more