The Algerian national iron and steel company (Feraal) on Tuesday concluded a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese consortium for the exploitation of the iron mine of Gara Djebilet or Ghar Jebilet, in the province of Tindouf.
The consortium is made up of China International Water & Electric Corp, Heyday Solar and the steel company Metallurgical Corp Of China. ” The cost of this investment has not been fixed to date and should not exceed $ 2 billion according to preliminary estimates. Algerian Minister of Energy, Mohamed Arkab, told the press. ” The launch of the mine operation planned in three stages, until 2025, which will see the first production of iron at the level of the mined area “.
For Rabat it is a stab in the back, moreover, on the part of the Algerian authorities who obscure the border treaty implying, through the creation of a mixed company, the exploitation of the common iron mine in question. , signed between Hassan II and Colonel Boumediene in 1972 during the OAU summit in Rabat. The agreement signed by the two men was to put an end to the tensions in this region between the two parties involved in this exploitation. Tensions caused by the fact that Houari Boumediene had decreed the nationalization of the zinc and lead deposits bordering the Moroccan borders, hence intrusions of intimidation by Algerian soldiers in Moroccan territory.
If Morocco had welcomed it, this was not the case with the Algerian regime, which did not accept sharing and mixed exploitation, never took place. With time and the Sahara issue, the convention was forgotten. Half a century later, Algeria brandished it and this time, it is to justify the expulsion of the date growers from the oasis of El Arja (Figuig).
Unfortunately, for the Chinese company in charge of the Ghar Jebilet iron deposit, it will not be able to exploit it wisely. Indeed, the ore with a too high phosphorus content can only be exploited after having been dephosphorus, which would add to the costs and therefore jeopardize profitability. The objective to appease the internal social climate in Algeria, to build an industrial “complex” for the production of 12 million tons of iron per year could therefore suffer. As a reminder, the announcement of the conclusion by Algeria of an agreement for the exploitation of this deposit is not the first of its kind. Previous agreements and attempts to launch the project had previously failed.
Below are some snippets of articles on this subject, from the French newspaper, Le Monde on May 11, 1966
Mission to Algiers of the Director of the Royal Cherifian Cabinet
By LOUIS GRAVIER
The mission of Mr. Taïbi Benhima, director of the royal cabinet, arrived in Algiers on Tuesday evening with a message from Hassan II to Colonel Boumediene, was caused by the nationalization of mines in Algeria. It was after a council of ministers held Tuesday in Ouarzazate, in southern Morocco, where the sovereign is making an official trip, that the king’s envoy left for Algiers. Moroccan officials would not have been informed of Algerian intentions beforehand, any more than the leaders of the mining companies. Their reaction seems to be motivated above all by the control of the neighboring State on the iron mine of Gara-Djebilet. Located in the Tindouf basin, it is part of one of the areas of Western Sahara over which Morocco claims sovereignty. Thus reappears the problem of the Algerian-Moroccan borders, which remained unsolved despite the still pending procedure initiated within the framework of the OAU.On the other hand, without falling under the territorial dispute, the nationalization of the lead and zinc mines along the Algerian-Moroccan border, on the eastern edge of Morocco, apparently poses certain problems of compensation at least for the provision of services, because the operation is linked to the use of facilities in Moroccan territory – such as the laundromat of the mines of Zellidja, in which the Moroccan state, represented by the Office chérifien des phosphates, has broad interests; the processed ore is then transported to the Algerian port of Nemours.
Or January 24, 1967 still by the same author
Morocco accuses Algeria of violating its territory near Colomb-Béchar
But between Rabat and Algiers the problem is more difficult to solve, because of the extent of Moroccan claims, in particular on the Tindouf basin and the iron ore deposit of Gara-Djebilet, whose nationalization last year, by Colonel Boumediene, caused tension between Rabat and Algiers (which, two months ago, entrusted the study of the possibilities of exploitation to Czechoslovak experts).