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MOPCO fertilizer factory environmental conflict, Egypt


Global fertilizer giant Agrium, based in Canada, signed a deal in 2006 with the Egyptian government to build a factory for the manufacture of ammonia-based fertilizers in Ras El-Bar, a middle-class coastal area close to the Damietta seaport. Plant construction began in 2008. From the start it faced opposition from local government officials and residents concerned about public health and environmental issues. Under Egypts plans to encourage foreign direct investment, reports indicated that Agrium operations would be tax free and that the company would benefit from a cheap energy deal [1, 4]. The furore led to the matter being referred to parliament and a committee advised that the factory be moved to Suez, although this was never implemented and eventually the government announced the project would be cancelled and Agrium given a 26 per cent stake in the Egyptian fertiliser company MOPCO. But construction began again in November 2011, sparking protests that left one person dead. In operation, communities complain of air and water pollution from the plant.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:MOPCO fertilizer factory environmental conflict, Egypt
State or province:Damietta Province
Location of conflict:Ras El-Bar district
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Manufactured Products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The existing annual capacity is 675,000 tonnes of urea and 80,000 net tonnes of merchant ammonia. According to Agriums 2011 annual report, the project aims to triple production capacity to 1.95 million tonnes of urea and 150,000 net tonnes of merchant ammonia [2].

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Level of Investment:$1.2 billion
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:25000
Start of the conflict:2006
Company names or state enterprises:Agrium from Canada
Mist Oil Processing Company (MOPCO) from Egypt - State-owned Egyptian fertiliser maker
Echem from Egypt
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Investment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coalition of Citizens Against Death Factories
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:The campaign against the plant has argued that development in Damietta should focus on enhancing existing economic sectors like fishing and tourism.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The mobilisation against the Agrium plant is considered a positive example of a community uniting in the cause of environmental justice. However, the plant is in operation, although an agreement to end protest allows a select group of protestors to monitor the factory.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Ghattas, Walid (2008). The Contract Between Agrium And ECHEMin Almasry Alyoum. Available at: Accessed: 30 December 2012.
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[2] Agrium annual report (2011). Available at Accessed 30 December 2012.
[click to view]

[4] American Embassy Cairo (2008). Agrium investment dispute could undermine Egypts improved image. Available at Accessed 31 December 2012.
[click to view]

[3] Elmusa, Sharif and Sowers, Jeannie (2009). Damietta Mobilizes for Its Environment in Middle East Research and Information Project. Available at: Accessed: 30 December 2012.
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Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Carlisle, Tamsin. (2008). Agrium stays the course in Egypt in The National. Available at: Accessed on 30 December 2012.
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Egypt Independent. (2011).Damietta residents block road to protest polluting factory. Available at: Accessed on 30 December 2012.
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El-Resam, Hamada. (2011). Nile pollution in Damietta. in Egypt Independent. Available at: Accessed 31 December 2012.
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Damietta Mobilizes for Its Environment
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Ahram Online. (2012). Damiettas controversial MOPCO factory found environmentally safe: Committee Available at: Accessed: 30 December 2012.
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The Daily News Egypt (2011). Damietta Still on Lockdown Over Petrochemical Plant. Available at Accessed 31 December 2012.
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El-Resam, Hamada (2011). Nile pollution in Damietta photo essay in Egyptian Independent. Available at Accessed: 30 December 2012.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Patrick Burnett
Last update08/04/2014
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