Since the mid-19th century, when phosphate became one of the most widely used minerals in the world, Egypt’s growing need for phosphate fertilizers for agricultural development and besides, its rapid industrial and social development, the Egyptian government has been Began its exploration throughout the country to find this valuable mineral’s reserves.
In 1897, Egypt discovered a phosphate layer in “Qift Mountain” area near Luxor. After that, reserves were discovered in the areas of Wadi al-Nil, Al-Sahara Al-Gharbiyah and Al-Sahara Al-Sharqiya. By discovery of these reserves, the Egyptian Phosphate Company (Different from the current company) was established in Safaja. The company first began exploiting the raw material of the Umm El-Hawitat region and connected the region to the port of Safaja in the Red Sea by rail. The railroad then moved to other mines in the Rabah area, where the first shipments of phosphate soil were transported by rail in 1911.
Since then, phosphate mines have been considered one of the most valuable assets of Egypt. This mineral is valuable for Egypt for two reasons. First in term of exploiting; According to the latest studies, Egypt’s phosphate reserves are scattered in the form of a phosphate belt in a very wide area of 750 km from the shores of the Red Sea in the east to the western desert in the western extremity of the country, which can produce both wealth and jobs opportunity.
Second economically; Because the government can create a significant source of income for the country by relying on phosphate exports. On the other hand, two things strongly affect the economic aspect of phosphate. The first is the type and degree of purity of Egyptian phosphate, and the second is the existence of infrastructure between mines and ports in the Red Sea that can facilitate the exports.
Geographical location of Egyptian mines
Nile Valley Area
Among the most important mines for phosphate extraction in this region are Al-Muhamid and Al-Sabaieh. It is estimated that there are about 200 million tons of 22% phosphate in Al-Muhamid.
Phosphate extracted from Al-Sebaieh mines has a purity of 24-30% (P2O5) and is suitable for phosphoric acid production, TSP and SSP. The mine is considered economically very important because with 500 million tons, it contains 70% of the region’s phosphate.
Geological studies have estimated that the region has a reserve of 1 billion tons of phosphate soil. The type of mines in this area is superficial and phosphate can be removed from the upper layers, but the percentage of impurities in the soil of this area is high, thus increasing the cost of extraction. This soil is used to produce fertilizer inside Egypt.
In the Eastern Sahara region, phosphate deposits are located in three rectangular areas. The largest of these phosphate rectangles stretches from the coasts of the Nile to the shores of the Red Sea. The position of these rectangles is as follows:
North Rectangle: The northern border is located between Hurghada and Asyut, the southern border on the one hand reaches Safaja and Qena and on the other hand Umm Al-Hawitat and Wasif in the south of Hurghada and Abu Had and Wadi Hamama in the north of Qena.
Middle Rectangle: This rectangle is limited to Safaja and Qena in the north and Qusayr and Qift in the south. There are 9 phosphate points in this area, most of which are located on the west coastal road between Safaja and Qusayr.
South Rectangle: Its northern border extends from Qusayr to Qift, but its southern border is drawn between Morsi Alam and Edfo. Crude phosphate mines are more concentrated in the western part of this rectangle, especially in the eastern side of Nile River, where there is a point, the most important of which is Al-Muhamid in the front of Al-Sabaieh mines, which is one of the oldest exploited points (Since 1897).
The Red Sea coast between Safaja and Al-Qusair
Phosphate soil of this region is located in the area between the port of Safajeh and the city of Al-Qusayr, and the most important mines in this area are Jabal Dhawi, Al-Atshan and Al-Hamrawin. The capacity of these mines is estimated at between 200 and 250 million tons. The soil in this region has a purity of 25-32% (P2O5) and in some places the purity reaches up to 33%. This soil is suitable for phosphoric acid and all types of fertilizers production. Recent studies estimated that the aera has more than 500 million tons of phosphate ore.
The Western Sahara is known as the largest phosphate reserves in Egypt. In this region, the most important mines are in Abu Tortur hill, and the desert, between Al-Dakhla and al-Kharija. These areas are all west of the Nile River and extend to Al-Julf Al-Kabir Hill, which is located south of the Western Sahara. The reserves in Abu Tartur are estimated at about 5 billion tons. Impurities in this area are high and as a result increases the cost compared to other areas.
Al-Dakhla and al-Kharija Phosphate
In addition to what has been mentioned, there are other phosphate mines in Al-Dakhla and al-Kharija, but their study remains at a preliminary estimate. However, studies proved that in the area near Gibraltar, northeast of Al-Kharjah, there is a reserve of about 40 million tons. There are also areas in Al-Dakhla where preliminary studies have estimated reserves of between 500 and 700 million tons.
Phosphate of Abu Tartur Hill
Abu Tartur Hill is located 50 km west of Kharga City, the capital of Al-Wadi Al-Jadeed province in southwestern Egypt. The hill is connected to the city by a network of highways. The distance from this hill to Kharga city airport is about 45 km. Phosphate extracted from Abu Tartur hill mines contains 31-34% phosphate (P2O5) and is a suitable option for the production of TSP, SSP, NPK, DAP, MAP, phosphoric acid as well as direct use in soil. The amount of toxic and dangerous substances like (As, Cd, Pb, Cr, Hg) in the soil of this region are considered as lowest values. The area of this region is estimated at 1,200 square kilometers with a storage of 5 billion tons of phosphate soil. The most important disadvantage of Abu Tartur phosphate is its high ratio of impurities. In addition, the distance from maritime export bases is another negative point of this region, so that it is about 500 km away from Safaja.
Phosphate production in Egypt
In the early years of phosphate mining in Egypt, the amount of extraction was not high, so that in 1908 only 700 tons were mined. This amount reached 2397 tons in 1910, and 104.608 tons in 1913. But from 1914 to 1919, production fell due to the outbreak of World War I.
With the end of World War I, production resumed to 313,478 tons by 1930. During this period, the highest amount of production was from the mines located in the areas of Safaja, Al-Qusair and Al-Sabaieh. It is estimated that Egypt has extracted a total of 3.5 million tons of phosphate soil from the beginning until 1934.
In the second half of the 20th century, from 1954 to 1959, production fluctuated between 500,000 and 600,000 tons. In 1980, production reached 679,000 tons, mostly from the Nile Valley and the Red Sea. Between 1987 and 1989, production reached 1.3 million tons per year. Production reached a threshold of 1.5 million tons in 1990, but then fell below 1 million tons by 1994.
In 2000, production reached 1.2 million tons per year again, but production fluctuations continued, so that in 2006 phosphate production in Egypt was reduced to 1 million tons. However, Egypt ranked 5th in phosphate production among Arab countries after Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Syria (before Syrian civil war began in 2011).
In 2015, the US Institute of Geological Survey published a study showing that Egypt has gradually reached 6 million tons per year over recent years. The study also shows that Egypt and Jordan produced the same amount in 2015. But according to figures released by the two countries, Egyptian production remained stable during the period 2015-2019, while Jordan, as a result of large investments and Indian participation, was able to increase its production to 10,000,000 tons per year.
It should be noted that according to studies by the Egyptian government, the amount of this country’s reserves is estimated at more than 6 billion tons (nearly 7 billion tons).
Sales and Export
Since in Egypt – unlike Jordan – instead of a single and centralized company, several companies are operating in the exploitation of phosphate mines, so in 2018 and in order to centralize all business activities, a state-owned company called Egyptian Marketing Company for Phosphate and Fertilizers established with presence of representatives of companies active in the field of phosphate extraction. At present, none of the companies has the right to export phosphate separately, and any export activity in the field of phosphate soil is done only through this company. It should be noted that in the 20th century, most of the companies were active in the field of phosphate were private companies, but gradually the government bought these companies, and today all the companies are owned by the Egyptian government.
According to a research, Egyptian phosphate is mainly exported from the country as soil. The Egyptian Phosphate Trading Company has mentioned only three options in introducing its products; Crushed phosphate rock, Grinded phosphate rock and Granulared phosphate.
Shareholders of Egyptian Phosphate Trading Company
Al-Nasr Mining Company (NMC): One of the largest mining companies in the country. The company was founded in 1960 and is active in the field of mining all kinds of mineral reserves and the company’s specialty is not only phosphate. Al-Nasr Company is active in the field of Phosphate, Talc, Quartz, Feldspare, Ilmenite, Pisolitic Kaoline, Plastic Caolin, Fermoclite, Granite Rock, Ballclay and Gypsite. Al-Nasr’s main activities are in the Nile Valley and the Red Sea mines.
Misr Phosphate Co: Founded in 2009. Egyptian Phosphate is a joint stock company and its shareholders are the National Investment Bank, Egyptian Mineral Resource Authority, Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Ganoub AlWadi holding co. The company specializes in phosphate extraction with a nominal production capacity of 10 million tons per year. The mines owned by the company are located in the Nile Valley, the shores of the Red Sea and the Abu Tartur hill. Abu Tartur Hill Mines, which is Egypt’s largest phosphate reserves, is managed exclusively by the company.
Western Gas Company: Established in 2001 with the aim of selling and transporting natural gas to Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The company buys gas for export from the National Gas Company and other foreign companies operating in Egypt and exports it to the target countries through the projected terminals as natural gas or liquefied natural gas. The company has prepared a 246-kilometer pipeline to transport natural gas, which starts in the city of Al-Arisha and passes through the city of Taba to Al-Aqaba in Jordan. In recent years, the company has expanded its activities to mining.
National Service Projects Organization: Established in 1979 with the aim of ensuring the self-sufficiency of the Egyptian Armed Forces and selling surplus production nationally and internationally.
Egyptian Mineral Resources Organization (EMRA): Established in 1896 to identify and manage Egypt’s natural and mineral resources. It is in charge of all matters related to the Egyptian mines, including study, exploration, licensing and monitoring. In a way, this organization can be considered as the full-fledged representative of the Egyptian Ministry of Oil and Natural Resources in the country’s mines management.
The percentage of ownership of the mentioned companies and organizations from the Egyptian Phosphate Trading Company is equal to 20%.
Introduction of Egyptian Phosphate Company
With a nominal production capacity of 10 million tons per year, this company is one of the main companies in charge of phosphate in Egypt. As mentioned in the previous sections, this company has various mines in Egypt, but the largest and most important mine of this company is located in Abu Tartur hill. Abou Tartur Hill, which is the largest phosphate reserve in the country, is estimated to contain 5 billion tons of extractable phosphate soil.
In order to reduce crude sales and create added value, in November 2020, the Egyptian Phosphate Company signed a contract with the National Investment Bank, Abu Qir Fertilizer Company, Shargh Gas, Chemical and Technical Projects and Investments Company (Petrojet), Petrochemical Engineering Company ( Al-Ahly Investment and Holding of the Egyptian Chemical Industries (9.5% each), as well as Al-Wadi Phosphate Industries Company (5%) and the Egyptian Natural Mines Organization (4.7%) signed to establish the Abu Tartur Phosphoric Acid Company. The share of Egyptian phosphate in this project will be 23.7%. The company has an approved initial capital of $ 100 million, of which $ 10 million has been allocated in the form of 200,000 shares at a price of $ 50 per share. The company planned to build on a 561,000-square-meter plot of land in the city of Al-Kharjah near Abu Tartur Hill. The company will only produce phosphoric acid and sulfuric acid.
In 2019, the Egyptian Phosphate Company managed to sell 3.2 million tons of phosphate soil.
Phosphate and compound Fertilizers Complex in Ain Al-Soukhna
The complex was inaugurated in 2019 with the aim of meeting domestic needs, self-sufficiency and preventing the import of fertilizers needed by Egypt, reducing the sale of crude phosphate soil and exporting surplus abroad in the Ain al-Sukhna region. This industrial complex belongs to the Egyptian army.
Ain Al-Sukhna Complex includes 9 industrial companies that provide the ground for creating added value and creating employment. The land intended for this industrial complex is 168,000 hectares and has been constructed in three years.
In this complex, two industrial units for sulfuric acid production with a production capacity of 1,250,000 tons, an industrial unit for the production of pure phosphoric acid with a production capacity of 100,000 tons per year, an industrial unit for DAP, MAP production of with 100,000 tons per year, 2 industrial units for commercial phosphoric acid production with a production capacity of 400,000 tons per year and one unit for the production of granular DAP with a production capacity of 400,000 tons per year and also an industrial unit for the production of granular TSP with a production capacity of 250,000 tons per year have been built. In addition to the mentioned industrial units, this industrial complex has a water treatment unit of 32,000 cubic meters per day, a special port for storing and exporting surplus products, two 46 MW steam turbines that provide 75% of the complex’s electricity needs, and a residential town, With a capacity of 1200 people.
Prior to the construction of the industrial complex, two companies, Abu Abul Chemical Fertilizer (Phosphoric Acid Production, SSP, TSP) and Al-Maliya Al-Masriya Al-Sanaieh (SSP), were producing part of Egypt’s supplies, and the rest of the country needed phosphate fertilizers and phosphoric acid has been provided through imports.
Production and sales
By summing the sales of different companies, it is possible to estimate between 5,500,000 and 6,000,000 tons of phosphate soil production in Egypt in 2019, most of which is produced by the Egyptian Phosphate Company. The reason for this is that the purpose of establishing the Egyptian Phosphate Company is to specialize in extracting the country’s resources and preventing chaos, so in addition to allocating the management of the country’s largest phosphate reserves to the Egyptian Phosphate Company, in 2019 other mines in Wadi Al-Nile and Red Sea resources to the company. Production from the Abu Tartur hill mines in previous years reached up to 5 million tons per year, but in 2019, according to the Egyptian Phosphate Company, it sold only 3.2 million tons of phosphate soil. The quality of this soil is about 31% of phosphate, which is a good soil.
In 2019, out of the total soil produced in Egypt, about 2 million tons were exported from this country. Most of the exported phosphate, 1,112,000 tons, is exported from the port of Al-Hamrawin in the city of Al-Qusayr on the Red Sea coast, and the rest is exported from the port of Abu Tartur in Safaja on the shores of the Red Sea to India, Indonesia and Malaysia. According to an expert and activist in the field of Egyptian phosphate extraction, this soil is exported to these countries at prices lower than the world price.