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Cobalt Mining in Bouazar and workers' struggle, Morocco


The Bouazar Cobalt deposit, situated about 34 km from Taznakht in the Ouarzazate governorate was discovered in 1928 and 1931 and the exploitation of the mine starting in 1942. [1][2] In addition to Cobalt, many secondary minerals including gold are being extracted by Compagnie de Tifnout Tiranimine (CTT), the exploiting company. The royal holding suspended its activity in 1983, before resuming four years later. Workers were offered their former job, this time through an employment agency, and a cycle of job precariousness thus started. [3][6] 

The company employs around 1200 miners who work in atrocious conditions, more than 600 m under the surface and without proper equipment and safeguards against landslides. Many deaths resulting from industrial accidents, landslides or electrocution were reported at a rate of one death per year. The management denies all responsibilities associated with the right of workers, often manufacturing false certificates concerning the causes of death. In addition, workers do not benefit from any form of compensation despite the risky working conditions in which they operate and neither do they see any improvement of these conditions. The wages of these miners consist of very little and the areas they live in are denied any serious infrastructure. [3] Silicosis, a typical mine disease, is also widespread with many workers being affected du to having to work without proper personal protection. With the complicity of the company’s doctor, CTT often reject the responsibility and refuse to pay the costs of treatment. “The ill worker is then assigned work at the surface. When his disease develops further he is then no longer desirable in the mine and is thrown into the street without any compensation. He is also expected not to protest or make any noise about his dismissal.” [3] 

Not only does the careless exploitation of the mine have detrimental effects on the worker’s health, it also affects the limited water resources of the region. As a matter of fact, the mine uses (with no charge) vast amounts of water to operate, polluting and depleting the groundwater that is used for drinking, cleaning and irrigation. [3] 

As a response this slavery-like exploitation, and inspired by the surrounding protests in the region, miners staged a first 2-hour strike on Friday, April 22, 2011 which was followed up by a full strike on Saturday. “Such an action was unthinkable”, remembers one of the striking workers, who have since been removed by the company. [3][6] On April 24, 60 workers launched a new union on the mining site, affiliated with the Democratic Confederation of Labour (CDT). These miners work for two subcontracting companies: Top Forage and Agzoumi. As job security is low, workers demand the right to weekly breaks and paid holidays, compensation for working accidents, registration to social security and stable contracts for temporary workers—some of whom have been working in the mine for 10 years. [3][6] After the new union was started, the mine bosses started a campaign of repression combined with attempts to corrupt the leaders, attempting to bribe them. The management then decided to relocate the union activists to new jobs at distant places in the mine so to separate them from the bulk of the workforce. Others were arrested by the police and stopped from entering the mine. [3] In the face of repeated provocations, workers and a number of trade union activists staged a protest outside the headquarters of the Democratic Confederation of Labor on the 8th of May. The workers went on strike for 48 hours on Monday and Tuesday, 16/17th May 2011, and organized a march on Sunday 15th of May together with members of the local branch of the CDT. More strikes were organized during may, some lasting 72 hours. And in October of the same year, almost 300 miners started a strike of 48 hours with occupation of the mine pit as a reaction to the failure to reach an agreement with the mine management. Workers were also denouncing the firing of 24 miners. With the support of the CDT, a general strike started on October 15 after the arrest of 8 workers. 5 of them were subsequently released and 3 of them condemned to 5 months in jail with a 5000 Dh fine. [4][5] 

This rebellion went on for about a year and a half, without much results. It ended with small gains: the distribution of protective masks for underground miners and delivery of professional cards. Some miners were suspended, others fired. [6]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Cobalt Mining in Bouazar and workers' struggle, Morocco
State or province:Ouarzazate
Location of conflict:Taznakht
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mining exploration and/or ore extraction
Specific commodities:Cobalt

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The mine operator is Compagnie de Tifnout Tiranimine (CTT) from the Managem industrial group. The mine is situated 120 Km south of Ouarzazate. It has a yearly production capacity of 2000 tonnes of Cobalt and employs between 1200 and 1600 people.

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:1,200-1,600
Start of the conflict:22/04/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Managem Group from Morocco - Mine Operator

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Trade unions
Mine Workers
Forms of mobilization:Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other Health impacts, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases
Other Health impactsSilicosis
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:As job security is low, workers demand the right to weekly breaks and paid holidays, compensation for working accidents, registration to social security and stable contracts for temporary workers—some of whom have been working in the mine for 10 years.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite several years of protest, the miner's demands are not yet fully met. Only masks have been provided as protective gear, and many workers were fired as a result of the protesting.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[1] - "Bou Azzer Deposit" in Morocco, Cobalt Producer, Discovered in 1931

[2] - History of Managem

[3] - Morocco: Cobalt miners struggle against exploitation, for the right to organize and for a decent living - They need your support

[4] - Morocco: Bouazar miners stand up against the bosses and the state

[5] - Maroc : " le mouvement du 20 février n'a cessé d'innover avec de nouvelles formes d'actions et d'organisation "

[6] - In Morocco, the Intense Exploitation of Miners and the Land Continues,1558

Au Maroc, l’intense exploitation des mineurs et des sols continue

Meta information

Contributor:Christophe Maroun - [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3357



Miners Protesting

Your Majesty, Our Rights?

Miners' working conditions,1558