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
NamePhosphate Mining in Gafsa, Tunisia
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific CommoditiesPhosphate
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsPhosphate production before 2011 revolution: 8 million tonnes/year

2014: 4 million tonnes

2015 (first quarter) 650,000 tonnes (50% decline from 2014)

Added value from the phosphate sector in Gafsa (Gouvernorat de) represents 70% of the value generated by the regional economic activities according to the Compagnie de Phosphates de Gafsa . [10]

1 million tons of merchantable phosphate consume approximately 2 million m³ of water in laundries, which comes largely from the non-renewable fossil layer of the continental shelf. [10]

It is recognized that the current mining sector in Tunisia significantly contributes to the water, air and soil pollution. For example, the first separation of phosphates is carried out by dry crushing, causing dust and polluting the surrounding plantations and population. [10]

Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population30,000 - 70,000
Start Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesCompagnie des phosphates de Gafsa (CPG) from Tunisia - Operator of numerous mines around the region, main cause of pollution
Relevant government actorsMinistère de l’Industrie, de l’Energie et des Mines, Direction générale des mines
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLocal residents

Amnesty International
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
Social movements
Trade unions
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
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
OtherDiseases from water contamination
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseMigration/displacement
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Migration out of the country, adding to mass arrivals to Europe
Development of AlternativesProposed negotiations between local youth groups in Gafsa and the government
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

(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.


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

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

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

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

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

Media Links

Documentary: Phosphate curse
[click to view]

Documentary: Phosphate fantasies
[click to view]

Short story: AlJazeera
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protesters in front of the CPG company Source:
[click to view]

Women protesting at barricade on road connecting Gafsa with mines Source:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEJAtlas affiliated researcher updated by ATUJUCLIS (end of 2018)
Last update18/03/2019