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Tunisia Plans to Increase Its Phosphate Production

Tunisia Plans to Increase Its Phosphate Production

Wednesday, 16 January, 2019 - 10:00
Protesters sit outside a tent near the entrance of the phosphate mine in Umm al-arais, Tunisia February 15, 2018. (File photo: Reuters)
Tunis- Al Munji Al Saidani
The Tunisian government is looking to raise revenues from mining activities, mainly the strategic phosphate sector, and plans to reach about 5 million tons of crude phosphate production during the current year, of at least a 30 percent increase in production.

Tunisia is expected to allocate about $47.1 dollars of investments for the phosphate sector only, in order to complete the technical studies of “Tozeur – Nefta” project and complete projects Meknassy and Umm al-Khashab, all of which are new phosphate mines that may contribute in the coming years to supporting local production and restoring Tunisia’s status in global markets.

In this regard, the government-run National Institute of Statistics confirmed that the production of strategic phosphates in Tunisia has decreased over the past year. It pointed out that mining and phosphate production fell 13.9 percent, recording 4 million tons in 2018 compared to 3.9 million tons during 2017.

Tunisia's production of phosphate was about 8 million tons in 2010, but the social problems experienced by production areas had a significant impact on the actual working days, negatively affecting production levels. As a result, Tunisia lost a number of global markets due to its inability to meet its obligations.

Tunisian government departments confirm the negative impact of the decline in phosphate exports on the Tunisian trade balance and the domestic stock of foreign exchange.

General Manager of Company of Phosphate Gafsa (CPG) Ramadan Suweid, has revealed the high volume of losses in the phosphate sector since 2011 as a result of the loss of a number of important foreign markets, adding that those losses are about $1.6 billion.

The government strategy depends on the production returning to its normal pattern after a series of social protests and strikes in the Gafsa basin, southwestern Tunisia. From there, it will launch a strategic study of the phosphate sector to ensure its sustainability and development until 2030.

In this regard, Tunisian geologist Habib Mahjoubi said Tunisia has the potential to produce about 15 million tons of phosphate if new mines that rely on external extraction of phosphate are used instead of the old mines that have been used for decades on the underground extraction.

Mahjoubi believes that old mines led to the high cost of production and made it difficult to compete with top phosphate producing countries.

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