Morocco - Mining



Morocco was the third-largest producer of phosphate rock (behind the United States and China), had 88.5 billion tons in proved reserves, and was the largest phosphate exporter. Phosphate exports accounted for $434 million, 70% of the country's mineral exports, most going to Spain, the United States, and Mexico. The 2000 output of phosphate rock, including by Western Sahara, was 21.5 million tons (gross weight). Phosphate rock mining and processing was Morocco's leading industry in 2002, and phosphates and fertilizers comprised the country's leading export commodity; minerals ranked third. All phosphate was produced by the state-owned Office Chérifien des Phosphates, founded in 1920, which was responsible for managing and controlling all aspects of phosphate mining. The combined capacity of the main facilities—at Youssoufia, Benguerir, Bou Craa, Sidi Chenan, and Khouribga—was 27 million tons per year.

Morocco also had significant deposits of copper ore; the nation produced 23,150 tons in 2000 (gross weight concentrates), down from 37,344 in 1997; almost all was exported. Iron ore production (gross weight) was 5,612 tons, down from 11,965 in 1997 and 407,000 tons in 1977. Other minerals produced in 2000 included: lead (gross weight concentrate, 117,510 tons), manganese ore (25,830 tons), zinc (gross weight concentrate, 201,741 tons), barite (320,243 tons), rock salt (147,960 tons), and acid-grade fluorspar (77,800 tons, down from 105,000 in 1998). In addition, Morocco produced antimony, cobalt, gold, mercury, silver, arsenic trioxide, bentonite, hydraulic cement, feldspar, fuller's earth (smectite), gypsum, mica, montmorillonite (ghassoul), phosphoric acid, marine salt, talc and pyrophyllite, and a variety of crude construction materials. Morocco also had the capacity to produce zircon, and had the only anthracite mine in the Mediterranean area—Jerada, in the Oujda region.

Plans called for increased domestic processing of phosphate into phosphoric acid for export. The government owned the subsoil mineral rights for all minerals. Exploration and new discoveries of oil and gas would yield sulfur and ammonia, which were needed for phosphate fertilizers. A four-year plan to upgrade the country's railway network was launched in 2000 to handle increased ridership by tourists and the needs of the phosphate industry. The plan, financed by the European Investment Bank and the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation, would lay an extra track between Meknes and Fez.

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