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Phosphate Mining in Gafsa, Tunisia

Important phosphate mine in Gafsa region. Lack of employment. Working conditions are poor, while pollution affects resident’s health and the water supply.


Tunisia’s main export commodity, phosphate, comes from mines in the Gafsa region, south-west of Tunisia, and is one of the main sources of state income (1, 2). However much damage is caused locally by poor infrastructure and working conditions, with a high level of illnesses and pollution.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Phosphate Mining in Gafsa, Tunisia
State or province:Gafsa
Location of conflict:Gafsa
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Phosphate
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Phosphate production before 2011 revolution: 8 million tonnes/year

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Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:30,000 - 70,000
Start of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises:Compagnie des phosphates de Gafsa (CPG) from Tunisia - Operator of numerous mines around the region, main cause of pollution
Relevant government actors:Ministère de l’Industrie, de l’Energie et des Mines, Direction générale des mines
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Local residents
Amnesty International
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Social movements
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Land occupation
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Deaths
Other Health impactsDiseases from water contamination
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Migration out of the country, adding to mass arrivals to Europe
Proposal and development of alternatives:Proposed negotiations between local youth groups in Gafsa and the government
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:While the protests and blockades have succeeded in temporarily shutting down the mine, it is less certain that the new proposition of negotiation between the locals and the government will be fruitful in employing enough locals and raising the safety and environmental standards of the sector. Whether working conditions will be improved and proper infrastructure built to avoid spread of pollution and health risks remains unknown.
Protests are still raising, and demands from civil actors whether for better working and employment conditions, or for social and environmental improvements have not led to related decision nor implementation. Negotiations and attempts to create a social dialogue have failed.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(9)La responsabilité sociale de l’entreprise entre la bipolarité les protestations sociales de la société locale et le pouvoir de l’Etat : Visions, enjeux et perspectives. Cas de la Compagnie des phosphates de Gafsa CPG, Tunisie.

(4) Nawaat: Behind Tunisia’s ‘Economic Miracle': Inequality and criminalization of protest
[click to view]

(1) The Economist: Dirty Business: Locals complain about the phosphate industry
[click to view]

(2) Alaraby: Tunisia’s phosphate is in danger (Arabic)
[click to view]

(5) albawaba: Disruption in Tunisia’s phosphate production (Arabic)
[click to view]

(6) Reuters: Tunisia's phosphate production to resume after protests end
[click to view]

(7) Alarab: Strikes and social anxiety hits the phosphate sector in Tunisia (Arabic)
[click to view]

(8) al-Araby al-Jadeed: Special documentary - Tunisia: The phosphate curse
[click to view]

(3) AlJazeera: Phosphate Fantasies
[click to view]

(10) La Compagnie des Phosphates de Gafsa (CPG) : État des lieux de la gouvernance et recommandations
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Documentary: Phosphate fantasies
[click to view]

Documentary: Phosphate curse
[click to view]

Short story: AlJazeera
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EJAtlas affiliated researcher updated by ATUJUCLIS (end of 2018)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2148
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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