Tunisia's state-owned phosphates producer Compagnie des Phosphates de Gafsa (CPG) has declared a state of alert after an announcement by the government on China’s offer to invest in the country’s phosphate residues.
Chinese and Tunisian investors have submitted an official request to the government to carry out huge investments in phosphate residues.
Both parties offered clearing the mining area, southwest of Tunisia, from these polluting residues.
They offered to recycle the residues and restoring them to the economic cycle decades after being cast aside.
This proposal has sparked an intense debate between the Tunisian government and union leaders.
The CPG had previously refused to enable Tunisian companies from investing in this field, considering that phosphate residues are considered a “strategic stock” that can be resorted to in the coming years in case local production declines.
Studies carried out by the CPG indicate that these wastes amount to a minimum of 24 million tons annually.
Studies also showed that they can be disposed after washing the raw material from phosphates, knowing that the government company has been operating continuously for about 130 years, and the financial returns from such an investment would be huge.
Phosphate residues contain between 15 and 25 percent of commercial phosphates, which can be extracted by advanced washing techniques, generating huge profits for the investors, according to a Tunisian official.
He pointed out that the CPG has these advanced techniques in its two model production units in al-Mitlawi and al-Mdhila cities.
The official also stressed that the company itself has conducted successful experiments on this technology since the beginning of the current millennium.
These experiments were not circulated to the rest of the production units due to the consumption of additional quantities of water to wash phosphates, he noted, in addition to their dependence on chemical additives, which makes the cost of production high.