Stone quarrying is the largest Palestinian export, but it is choked by various Israeli restrictions, including the Israeli Civil Administrations failure to renew or grant new permits for Palestinian quarries in Area C since 1994. On the other hand, Israeli and international corporations, operate thriving quarrying businesses in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Cemex, a Mexican corporation, has wholly owned Israeli Readymix Industries since 2005. Until June 2015, Readymix owned 50% of the shares in Yatir Quarry, located in the occupied West Bank. Cemex has profited from the exploitation of stone resources in the OPT. On 10 June 2015, the Israeli Antitrust Authority approved a request for a merger between Kfar Giladi Quarries and Yatir Quarry and less than a week later Lime & Stone was no longer listed as one of the owners of Yatir Quarry on the Israeli Registrar of Companies. Additionally, through its ownership of Readymix Industries, Cemex supplies building materials for construction of settlements, checkpoints (e.g. Hawara and Azzun-Atma) and for the Annexation Wall (along the Gilo Bridge). Readymix operates three aggregate factories in the illegal Israeli settlements of Mevo Horon, Mishor Adumim, and Atarot. HeidelbergCement, one of the largest construction materials companies in the world, owns three cement plants and one quarry in the occupied West Bank through its subsidiary Hanson Israel, which it acquired in 2007.
In June 2015, Norwegian pension fund KLP excluded Cemex and HeidelbergCement from its investment portfolio. The decision was taken due to their operations in the occupied West Bank. The largest private pension and insurance fund in Denmark also divested from Heidelberg in December 2015, qualifying HeidelbergCement’s activities as a “violation of basic human rights.” In a letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre dated 9 September 2015, Cemex has confirmed its presence in settlements. and announced that it had sold its holdings in the Yatir quarry, a mining site located south of the Palestinian city of Dhahiriya in the West Bank yet it continues to operate four factories on occupied land through Readymix Industries. Several court cases have been filed regarding this conflict. In December 2011, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, claimed that Israeli quarrying in the OPT was illegal under international law because it exploited the natural resources of the occupied territory for the benefit of the occupying power. However the court ruled that in a prolonged occupation the economic development of the occupied territory could not be frozen indefinitely and held that existing Israeli-owned quarries should be allowed to continue operating, but no new ones should open.
According to Human Rights Watch military authorities closed down about 35 Palestinian quarries in the West Bank in late March 2016 and confiscated millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. In a letter to Human Rights Watch, Israel’s Civil Administration said that it shut down the quarries because they were operating without licenses and created safety and environmental hazards. The closures puts the livelihoods of up to 3,500 workers at risk and highlights the difficulty Palestinian quarries have in obtaining new licenses over the past 20 years. In 2016, The High Court of Justice in Israel rejected a petition by the Forum for a Green Israel against the continued operation of Palestinian quarries in the West Bank, which accused them of causing serious environmental pollution. The nonprofit organization was ordered to pay the quarries and the state 5,000 shekels ($1,300) each in legal costs. In December 2015, the United Nations adopted a resolution demanding that Israel cease the exploitation, damage, depletion and endangerment of Palestinian natural resources, and recognize the right of Palestinians under military occupation to claim restitution.