Phosphate exploration in Tunisia dates back to 1885 when a French veterinarian named Philippe Thomas stumbled upon phosphate mines during his exploration work in Gafsa between the mountains of Jebel Thelja and Ras al-Oyoun. In 1887, when the veterinarian published his research paper, the information caused a large number of phosphate explorers to travel to Tunisia to discover and extract this valuable substance.
With the entry of the French into the Tunisian field of exploration, extraction, and sale of phosphate, the first specialized company in this field called Gafsa company founded and the first meeting of the company’s board was held on April 5 of that year to elect the CEO. The meeting resulted in the election of French President Charles Dollfus-Galline as the first president of the Tunisian phosphate company.
With the start of the first Tunisian company, the progress of the phosphate mining industry in Tunisia accelerated, so that at the same time with the establishment of Gafsa Phosphate Company, the construction of a phosphate transfer railway began.
Phosphate mines were then discovered and exploited one after another to extract this valuable substance. So that in 1899 Al- Metlaoui mine, in 1903 Al- Redeyef mine, in 1904 Moulares mine started operating.
In 1905, the Tunisian company for Exploitation was established. In the same year, the Al-Qala Al-Khasba mine in Al-Kaf was discovered and exploited.
In 1920, with the discovery of the Mdhilla mine, the Mdhilla Mountain Mining Company was established and started operating. The company lasted for 49 years and in 1969 merged with Gafsa and Railway Company.
In 1970, with the discovery of Al-Saheeb mine in Mdhilla, the exploitation of this mine began.
Due to state-owned companies, the management of phosphate mines in Tunisia was not better than in Egypt. However, in 1976, with the merger of all the phosphate companies into a single company called the Gafsa Phosphate Company, a unification procedure was established in the exploitation of phosphate mines.
From 1978 to 1995, other parts of the phosphate mines went under production. In 1987, the Kef Schfaier section in Metlaoui, in 1980, Umm Al-Khashab, in 1987, the Kaf al-Dour section, the Wadi al-Khusfa section in Mdhilla, in 1991, the Al-Jalabiyah section in Mdhilla, and in 1995, the Al-Ma’idah Al-Shamaliya, in al-Aris.
In 1996, the last step was taken to establish single management in the production and processing of phosphate by merging the Gafsa Phosphate Company and the Tunisian Chemical Company, so by that, the Gafsa Company is including the sectors of exploration, exploitation, transportation, and processing of phosphate.
The Tunisian phosphate company is currently known worldwide as the Compagnie de Phosphate de Gafsa (CPG).
Geographical map of phosphate mines and processing plants
In Al- Metlaoui area, there are 3 phosphate extraction sites named Kef Schfaier, Tables de Metlaoui, and Kef Eddour, and 4 washing plants, 1 floating unit in Kef Schfaier, and 1 washing plant in Kef Eddour.
In Mdhilla area, two extraction sites named Jallabia and Mzinda, 3 washing plants, and 1 floating unit have been built.
In Moulares, there are two extraction sites in Moulares and Kef Eddour-Ouest and a washing plant.
There is an extraction site and 1 washing plant in Kef Eddour.
Phosphate extraction and production operations in Tunisia have had a natural and growing trend until 2010 so that in 2010 the highest amount of phosphate extracted soil was recorded for Tunisia with 8.2 million tons. However, with the beginning of the Arab Spring and political revolution in Tunisia and due to the increase of social protests to the increase of unemployment, the executive capacity of the Tunisian phosphate company was gradually reduced so that in 2020 only 350 thousand tons were produced, and the government has plans to import 500,000 tons from Algeria this year.
Unfortunately, due to the cessation of executive operations and production in the Tunisian phosphate company, the statistics and information provided on the company’s website have been suspended since 2019, and the available information is that can be obtained from news and interviews. It should be noted, however, that since 2014, the publication of annual reports has ceased.
According to the latest annual performance report published on the site of the phosphate company in 2014, the quality of phosphate produced in this country has a steady quality, so that the ratio of P2O5 in the extracted soil was between 28.7 to 29 percent.