This is an important iron ore deposit in Tindouf

Argelia rompe el pacto con Marruecos sobre la explotación del complejo minero de Ghara Jbilet

REUTERS/YOUSSEF BOUDLAL - Image of mining site

Algeria has broken its agreement with Morocco on the Ghara Jbilet iron ore mining complex and has given the order to start mining at this important site in the Tindouf region.

In connection with this rupture, which has been reported in the media, the Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines, Mohammed Arkab, gave the order for work to begin. This situation further strains relations with the neighbouring Alawi kingdom, especially after the Algerian state decided to break off relations with Morocco in August last year due to various political differences, particularly in relation to the political management of the conflict in Western Sahara, an area where the Kingdom intends to establish broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty and where Algeria supports the Polisario Front, which is calling for a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people.

The Algerian Council of Ministers agreed to begin the first phase of the project, which "represents an important source of income for the country" and is of "vital importance to advance the pace of local and national development", according to media outlets such as Yabiladi and Morocco Day.


According to official Algerian media, the deposit covers an area of 5,000 hectares, a third of the total area of the complex. The area's reserves are estimated at 1 billion tonnes of iron ore. Iron is not a mineral that is extracted in its pure form, but is present in other minerals and is very valuable because it is used to make steel, and can also be used in the construction of infrastructure and in various sectors such as the automotive industry, mechanical equipment, iron and steel and alloys and tools of all kinds.

The Algerian minister Arbak pointed out that "this project will go through several stages, from 2022 to 2040", explaining that "the first will be developed from 2022 to 2025", with the extraction and land transport of "two to three million tonnes of minerals", with the project for the construction of the railway line planned between the town of Béchar and the mining site, as also indicated by the Yabiladi media. 

With this decision on the Ghara Jbilet mines, Algeria is breaking with the commitments it made to Morocco at the beginning of the 1970s concerning the extraction of iron ore in this enclave.

On 15 June 1972, the official delimitation of the Moroccan-Algerian border provided for the joint exploitation of the Ghara Jbilet mining complex. The agreement was published in the Algerian Official Journal on 15 June 1973 and ratified by the Moroccan government on 22 June 1992. The document, which bears the seal of King Hassan II and President Houari Boumediene, states that 'with the particularity that characterises the fraternal relations existing between Algeria and Morocco, it cannot be admitted that the border constitutes a barrier between the two brotherly peoples, because in reality it is a space where feelings and interests meet'.

mina-argelia-marruecos-hierro-boumediane-hassan II

The two heads of state noted at the time that "the conclusion of the border delimitation treaty between Algeria and Morocco and the Ghara Jbilet investment cooperation treaty confirm the firm determination to consolidate the pillars of a lasting peace, through the years and centuries".

The latest Algerian move signifies yet another episode of misunderstanding between the two North African neighbours after the severing of relations decreed by Algeria in August last year. 

Western Sahara and other political disagreements continue to drive a wedge between the two nations. Precisely on the Sahrawi issue, Morocco is gaining an advantage over its Maghreb neighbour because its proposal for broad autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty has received the support of major countries such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, the United Kingdom and even Spain. The great accolade came with the recognition by Donald Trump's last US administration of the Moroccan sovereignty of the Sahara (something reaffirmed by Joe Biden's current government) in correspondence with the Kingdom's establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in the wake of the famous Abraham Accords of September 2020, by which several Arab countries such as the Emirates and Bahrain established political ties with the Israeli state as an extremely important step towards pacifying the Middle East region and confronting common enemies such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has been singled out by various experts for destabilising the region and meddling in the affairs of other neighbouring states through the activity of like-minded Shia groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Mobilisation Front in Iraq and the Houthi rebels fighting the war in Yemen to undermine the established government. For its part, the referendum initiative for the Sahrawi people advocated by the Polisario Front enjoys less international support, including from Algeria.

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