Huge phosphate find will boost Iraqi economy

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The Independent Online

"World-class" phosphate deposits, larger than those of any country other than Morocco, have been found in Iraq, the US Geological Surveyhas revealed.

The four biggest deposits make up 9 per cent of global reserves, at 5.75 billion tonnes, it says. The findings are a result of joint work by Iraqi authorities and the US Geological Survey to map non-oil mineral resources and diversify an economy heavily reliant on oil production.

Greg Fernette, from the US Geological Survey, told a London conference that the two biggest deposits, Akashat and Swab – said to hold 1.7 billion and 3.5 billion tonnes of phosphate respectively – were "fantastic". While the purity fell slightly below the 25 per cent average, higher grade material was present, he said.

Modern agriculture depends on phosphate-based fertilisers and global demand for phosphate would grow in parallel with the rise in the world's food consumption, Mr Fernette said.

The Iraqi government plans to turn Akashat into a phosphate production hub supplying Asian export markets. The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Rowsch Shaways, told the conference that his government's goal was to "achieve industrial growth that contributes significantly to diversifying the economy" but that oil remained its cornerstone.

"Despite all positive change and reforms in various sectors, the unilateral revenue path of the Iraqi economy continues to be a matter of concern," he said.