|The Bou Craa phosphate mine is located 100 km inland from the capital city of El Aaiun. The Bou Craa area's phosphate resources were discovered by the Spanish in 1947; phosphate deposits are near the surface and are very pure. Phosphate mining, however, did not begin until the 1960s. Since 1974, the Bou Craa mining operation has been growing steadily. In 2000, the mine covered more than 1 225 hectares. In 2001, its output was approximately 1.5 million metric tonnes of phosphate.|
Morocco controls the area of Western Sahara where the mine is located and jointly operates the mine with Spanish interests. While the mine amounts to only two or three per cent of Morocco's phosphate production, the reserves are valuable because of the uranium that can be extracted from them.
The phosphate-containing rock is transported from the Bou Craa mine to the port at El Aaiun via a 100-km-long conveyor belt, which can move 2 000 metric tonnes of rock per hour. The conveyor belt is visible as a straight line from the upper left corner toward the centre of the 1987 and 2007 images above. Below these images are two long, horizontal images, captured in 1972/1973 and 2000. The conveyor belt is visible in the 2000 image running from the mine to the coast. Note the fringe of drifting sand spreading downward from the belt's path (yellow arrows).
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