Arab World


06. Mauretania > Manufacturing, Mining and Services

Chambers of Commerce and Trade Organisations
Mauritania Chamber of Commerce and Industry, PO Box 215, Avenue de la Republique, Nouakchott. Tel: +222 252214, fax: +222 253895, URL:

  • Primary and Extractive Industries
  • Energy
  • Manufacturing
  • Agriculture
  • Fishing



Mining of lower grade ores in the Guelbs region began at El Rhein in 1984, and mining of high grade iron ore is carried out at Kedia near Zouérate. In 1985 iron ore exports were worth US$155.1 million, just over 40 per cent of total exports, and were the second largest source of foreign exchange. Iron ore mining is being restructured with the backing of the World Bank and other donors. Gold and diamonds have been found but exploitation is limited. In 2003, 68 per cent of Mauritania's exports were of metal and ore origin. Deposits of blue granite were discovered recently in the North.

Copper mining at Akjoujt was suspended in 1978. A US$10 million gypsum mining and processing project was inaugurated near Nouakchott in 1984. Phosphate reserves estimated at 95 million tons remain unexploited because of transport problems and current low world prices, and prospecting for uranium has been halted for similar reasons.

Exploration is under way offshore, seismic surveys having suggested high potential oil and gas reserves. In 2001 a significant oil discovery was made off the country's southwest coast. Production started from the Chinguettil oilfield in 2006 at a rate of 15,000 barrels per day. It was hoped that this would be increased to a rate of 75,000 barrels per day by the end of that year. The Tiof oilfield was discovered in 2005 and was scheduled to come online in 2007. Mauritania had proven reserves of 100 million barrels in 2008 and that year produced 12,800 barrels per day all of which were crude.


Electricity generation has expanded rapidly with the growth of the mining industry. In 2000 electric generating capacity was 0.1 gigawatts. The main power station near Nouakchott is being rehabilitated and electricity supply improved with the help of funds from OPEC. As one of the members of the Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Senegal (OMVS), Mauritania should benefit from hydro-electricity generated from the Manantali and Diama dams in neighbouring Mali and Senegal. At present over 80 per cent of electricity is generated from fossil fuels. In 1998, 0.152 kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity were generated and 0.1 billion kWh were consumed. Before the coup in 2005 plans were underway to privatise the state power company.


There is a very small manufacturing industry. A petroleum refinery with capacity for 1 million tons of Algerian oil a year began operating in 1978 near Nouadhibou. It was shut down in 1983, but was reopened in April 1987 with Algerian help. A sugar refinery was reopened in 1982.

In 1986 the World Bank provided a US$20 million loan towards mining and industry as part of a programme to diversify Mauritania's economy. A steel rolling mill has recently been renovated. There is also small scale manufactuing of food processing, chemicals, plastics, building materials, and paper and packaging materials.


Agriculture remains the main occupation of the majority of the population. However, Mauritania suffers from the effect of drought and pests, and in recent years has been heavily dependent on foreign aid. Mauritania meets less than half of its food needs and in recent years 20,000 tonnes of grain have been imported. With the help of foreign aid, a major irrigation scheme is being developed in the Gorgol Valley. Main crops include millet, rice, sorghum and pulses.

Aid has been given by the FAO, the International Development Association (IDA), the African Development Fund, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the OPEC Fund for International Development as well as France, Germany, Japan and Arab countries. In January 2002 torrential rains hit Mauritania and crops and grazing land were severely damaged. In 2004 much of northern Africa was hit by an invasion of locusts. Mauritania was the worst hit country and crops were wiped out. As a result of this in 2005 the UN called for food aid to be sent.

Agricultural Production in 2004


1,000 tonnes





Fruits & Vegetables


Roots & tubers




Oilseeds (oil equiv.)






(Source: data from FAOSTAT, Food & Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations)



Mauritania's rich fishing grounds were largely exploited by foreign companies until 1980 when the government declared a 200-mile economic exclusion zone along the coastline. With tighter controls on the industry, fishing receipts greatly increased and boosted the fish processing and freezing industry at Nouadhibou.

Conservation measures were introduced in July 1987 to try to prevent over-fishing. Figures for 2004 show that the catch of pelagic fish was 137,000 tonnes and5,000 tonnes of freshwater fish.

Port and landing facilities are to be improved and small-scale fishing encouraged. The World Bank is funding a study of the fisheries sector with a view to formulating a long-term strategy for the industry. In 2001 an agreement was reached with the EU that would allow European trawlers to fish in Mauritanian waters for four years.

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