Monday, August 19, 2013

Poverty amid Plenty

Mauritania is one of the richest countries in the region in terms of fish reserves and mineral wealth as well as in terms of livestock and agricultural lands. However, these economic resources are not reflected in the miserable lives of its people. a government  minister spent over $1 million on a dinner party held for a ministerial delegation of less than six ministers.

Mauritania’s coastline along the Atlantic Ocean stretches more than 700 kilometers and encompasses one of the most important Arab reserves of fish wealth. According to governmental sources, these could supply one-quarter of fish needs in the Arab world.

Mauritania is the third largest producer of iron in the world, thanks to the mines in the north of the country near Kediet ej Jill, in Zouerat. The freight train [associated with these mines] is the longest in the world and exceeds 3 kilometers in length. It transports iron ore to the mining port in the city of Nouadhibou.

75,000 barrels of oil are extracted per day from wells near Nouakchott, and Mauritania is also seeking to extract gas from six wells near Nouakchott. Meanwhile, eight wells are still waiting for the start of oil exploitation in partnership with the French company Total.

Mauritania exports gold from its gold mines near the city of al-Shami, about 250 km north of the capital. According to an official statement, the national gold company is seeking to build a plant next year capable of processing 30,000 tons of minerals per day. This will enable Mauritania to have an annual production of 830,000 ounces of gold during the next five years.

Mauritania exports copper from the Guelb Moghrein Mine, located near Akjoujt to the north of Nouakchott.

The country is witnessing an unprecedented turnout of mineral exploration companies and the Mauritanian Ministry of Mines stated that it had granted 283 licenses for mineral exploration at the end of last year. Moreover, there are preparations for the extraction of uranium and other minerals.

In the capital Nouakchott, for example, whose population does not exceed one million people — one-quarter of the total population, according to the last census — around 50% of residents live below the poverty line.  The luckiest Mauritanians work on Spanish tomato farms in return for low wages, while tens of thousands of them have relocated to the Arab Gulf states.


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