Iron ore industry developed in this country rather slowly. The first deposits were discovered in 1935 in the region of Cedia d’Idzhil (about 68% iron content), but the first studies of potential production were carried out only in 1948. Four years later, the Mauritanian Company of Iron Mines (MIFERMA) was established, preparatory work began To extraction. In 1960, Mauritania gained independence, and only in 1963 the first ship with iron ore was sent to France.
In the 1970s, iron ore was mined at the Kedia d’Idzhil field. With the development of the upper, rich layers of this field, its profitability began to decline. In the conditions of reduction of demand for ore in the world market in this period, it became impossible to compensate for the drop in profitability due to higher prices. In 1974, MIFERMA was nationalized and renamed SNIM. About 20% of the authorized capital was contributed by Arab investors. In the circumstances, the company SNIM began to develop new fields within the national project “Gelb”. In 1984, the industrial development of the Gelb Rein field began. Despite the fact that the average iron content in the ore of this field was about 38%, its exploitation was recognized as profitable. A plant was built to enrich the ore and produce concentrate with an iron content of 66%.
The next important step was the development in 1994 of the Maudat deposit (iron content of about 66%), discovered in 1987, which allowed the company to support the production and export of iron ore concentrate at the level of 11-12 million tons. in year. All produced iron ore is exported. The main consumers of Mauritanian iron ore are Italy and France (approximately 27%), Belgium – 15%, Germany – 10% and Great Britain – 8%. Other countries (USA, Japan, Tunisia, Finland, the Netherlands) account for about 5% of the company’s exports.
The confirmed reserves of iron ore in Mauritania are estimated at 400 million tons. (Total – 700 million tons), with an average iron content of 50%. The company owns 5 iron ore mines (Seyala, Roessa and Tazadit – at the Kedia D’Idzhil field, the Rhine – the Gelb Rein deposit and the Maudat deposit at the same deposit). At four mines there are factories for the primary crushing of iron ore. In the Rhine there is also an enrichment plant with a capacity of 4 million tons. (It is planned to modernize up to 6 million tons by 2002). SNIM is also developing a project for the construction of a pellet factory in the Rhine. The company’s fields are linked to the ore port in Nouadhibou, the only railroad in the country, with a throughput of about 15 million tons.
A feature of Mauritania is that the iron ore industry in this country did not get a rapid development, despite the fact that this country could well claim to be the second “home mine” of Europe. Nevertheless, the export of iron ore is extremely important for Mauritania, forming in some years up to 40% of the national budget revenues. Given the large external debt, this situation puts the country in direct dependence on creditors. Perhaps this is the reason for the conclusion of the first contract in 1993 and 2000.