In 2000, the government proposed allowing foreign investors to develop mineral deposits held by the national mining companies. The national geologic and mineral research office has identified many mineral deposits. However, they were located in remote areas that lacked infrastructure or government funding for development. With Algeria's proximity to Europe, its major minerals customer, the country's base and precious metals are of interest to foreign investors. Guerrilla activity, though, remains a significant deterrent.
Algeria's phosphate deposits at Djebel Onk, in the northeast, are among the largest in the world, covering about 2,072 sq km (800 sq mi), with an output of 877,000 tons in 2000, down from1.16 million tons in 1998. There are deposits of high-grade iron ore at Ouenza, near the Tunisian border. Production totaled 1.65 million tons in 2000, down from 2.25 million tons in 1996; half is exported. Among other mineral production in 2000, zinc concentrate output was 10,452 tons, up from 3,690 in 1997; bentonite, 22,708 tons, up from 15,491 in 1999; lead concentrate, 818 tons, down from 1,215 in 1999; mercury, 215,625 kg, down from 447,034 in 1997; crude barite, 51,925 tons, up from 31,348 in 1996; salt, 182,000 tons; hydraulic lime, 96,000 tons, up from 65,000 in 1998; and marble, 700,000 tons. Silver, kaolin, sulfur, fuller's earth, and strontium are also mined.
Two gold projects, Amesmessa and Tirek, in the southern Hoggar region, were being developed by the South African Council for Mineral Technology. Production was scheduled to begin in 2001. Resource estimates were 4.96 million tons at grade of 14.1 grams per ton gold for Amesmessa, and 1.17 million tons at an average grade of 17 grams per ton for Tirek.