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The Longest Conveyor Belt in the World

Did you know that the world's longest conveyor belt is an amazing 61 miles long? Used by the mining industry in Western Sahara, it spans the desert and is so long that it's visible from space!

Western Sahara, classified by the UN as a non-self-governing territory, has been occupied by Morocco for many decades. It contains 85% of the world's reserve of phosphate rock, which is a hugely important natural substance - phosphate is a key element in every living thing on the planet.

It's a key component of fertiliser and is crucial for growing crops. It's also used to supply the corn ethanol needed for manufacturing fuel for vehicles: corn ethanol is commonly used as an oxygenate to produce a low-level blend of gasoline.

The abundance of phosphate ore in the desert creates employment in the mining town of Bou Craa, located amid many miles of desert, where the only vegetation is patchy scrub. When phosphate mining began in the area, the problem arose of how to transport the phosphate from Bou Craa to the coast, where it could be shipped for export.

As one of Morocco's largest exports, phosphate is crucial to the economy - and Bou Craa is at the forefront of the country's mining industry. It was first discovered in the late 1940s by Spanish colonial officials, and geologists estimated around 146 million tons of extractable ore lay underground.

The challenge arose of how to transport it to the coast - and the mining company came up with an innovative idea to transport the ore the 61 miles to the ports by building a giant conveyor belt! It goes from Bou Craa to the port of El-Aaiun and is officially the longest conveyor belt in the world.

Some of the phosphate is blown off the belt by the strong winds and this creates a long, white flash across the desert that can be seen from space! Some of the dust trails spanning out extend more than three miles from the belt!

The super-long conveyor belt is made from a complex system of interlinked belts. Creating a unique landscape of miles of moving phosphate, its bold ivory streak winds its way to the harbour town of El Aaiún, where it is shipped across the world.

With its largely untapped source of phosphate ore, Bou Craa is set to become increasingly important in years to come. Other major producers, such as China and the US, are scaling down production because of dwindling reserves. As this happens, this often-forgotten territory will become increasingly valuable in global terms.

Economists believe political instability in the occupied territory of Western Sahara could lead to price increases for the world's food supply. For example, a protest inside Morocco in 2011 blocked the construction of a planned railway to link phosphate mines and fertiliser plants.

During the Western Sahara War, which lasted from 1975 to 1991, Polisario guerrilla attacks saw the mighty belt vandalised and disabled several times and mining had to be halted at one point. However, the attacks largely ceased during the 1980s, when Moroccan control was consolidated over some regions of Western Sahara after the Moroccan Wall was built.

Today, the mine produces some three million tonnes of phosphate annually, representing 10% of Morocco's total industrial production.

Coruba stocks a large range of reliable conveyor belts to benefit your business. Our conveyor systems are a trusted method of transporting goods from one place to another, especially in the product handling and packing sector. Please contact us for further information on our range of conveyor belt systems.

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