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The Giant of the Sahara

conveyor belts

The entire world is filled with conveyor belts. Taken together a system conveyor rollers, these remarkable pieces of engineering often go unnoticed and therefore are underappreciated, but the entire world might be a very different place without them. They are utilised for anything from transporting heavy boxes around shipping warehouses to the essential element in food production processes.

Deep inside the Western Sahara, in the middle of nothing else but dry desert, stands the earth’s largest conveyor belt system. It is so large actually, that it can be seen from space. This huge structure extends over 61 kilometres and is utilised to move phosphate stone throughout the desert.

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The automatic conveyor belt system begins its quest at the Bou Craa Phosphate Mine. Phosphate is utilised as a vital farming fertiliser and this Moroccan-managed territory has more than 85% of the planet’s current reserves. Phosphate is sought after around the world and we all use up about 40 million tonnes annually, therefore it is obvious why such a big structure needed to be created. The belt type is ST 2500 and it is only 80cm broad but features a maximum transporting capacity of 2000 tonnes of raw phosphate stone per hour. The numerous conveyor rollers that comprise this system are very important to its smooth operation.

The Bou Craa phosphate mine was found in The late 1940s by the Spanish. The phosphate deposits found in the area were actually uncommonly close to the surface and were of really high purity, therefore it made it an ideal location to mine, despite the fact that mining didn’t entirely start before the 1960’s. Since the beginning of operations, the mine continues to expand and already covers an incredible 1,225 hectares. Its output in 2001 was 1.5 million metric tonnes of processed phosphate, an unusually large proportion of the world’s supply from a single mine.

The belt, which is functioning for more than thirty years, ends its 61 kilometre voyage at the El Aain coast where its load is processed and distributed. The belt isn’t enclosed and as time passes, drifting phosphate rock has been transported by the prevailing winds and miles of land south of the belt now appears totally white from outerspace.


The Bou Craa conveyor belt has such a crucial role to play that if it ever failed, food costs all over the world would substantially raise as stocks of phosphate fertiliser would come to be scarcer. Who’d have imagined a straightforward conveyor belt could be so fixed in to the worlds food? With only a tiny bit of overstatement, you could say that the conveyor rollers and belt contained in this particular system are what allows millions of men and women all over the world to eat.

The Bou Craa conveyor is actually a accomplishment of technology and one of a kind. It really is improbable that we will see one more conveyor belt of similar dimensions built in our lifetimes.