Middle East phosphorite-bearing basin

(Map) Middle East phosphorite-bearing basinMIDDLE EAST PHOSPHORITE-BEARING BASIN (RU: Ближневосточный фосфоритоносный бассейн) is situated at the north-east of Africa and on the adjacent territory of the eastern Mediterranean. The basin occupies the extensive parts of the territory of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and southern Turkey, covering the north of the African-Arabian craton. The length of the basin is approximately 2000 kilometres, the area is approximately 1 million square kilometres. The reserves of the phosphorites are 9.5 billion tonnes, including 2.9 billion tonnes of the proven ones, of which 1.4 billion tonnes are suitable for the open-pit extraction. The main industrial deposits (see the Map) are: Abu Tartur, El Mahamid, Abu Tundub, Hamraveyn, Vasif (Egypt), Oron, Arad (Israel), Ash-Shidiya, Al-Hasa, Al-Ruseyfa (Jordan) Taniyat (Saudi Arabia), Akashat (Iraq), Eastern, Kneyfis (Syria), and Mazydagy (Turkey). The first deposits have been discovered during the 1896-1908 within the valley of the Nile River, and on the western coast of the Red Sea; the majority of the deposits have been identified during the 50-ies - 60-ies within the countries of the Middle East.

For the tectonic plan of the basin, there are characteristic the diverse phosphorite-controlling structural elements: syneclises (Nile and others), anteclises (Rutbin, Jordan, Nubian, and others), intra-craton folded zones (Sinai, Palmyra), and the rigid massifs of the Arabian-Nubian shield, which are bounding the basin at the south. The deposits, which are situated on the limbs of the anteclises, are represented by the almost flat-lying productive layers with the angles of the dip mostly from 1 to 10 degrees. Within the syneclises, and especially within the intra-craton folded zones, the productive horizons have been crumpled, are intersected by the ruptured disturbances, the angles of the dip are 25-60 degrees. The industrial depositions in the form of the layers (the thickness is 2-6 metres) are formed with the carbonatic, silica-carbonatic, and clay-carbonatic granular phosphorites of the marine origin. They consist for 50-90% of the phosphate grains (0.125-0.5 millimetres), and of the impurity of the phosphatized biomorphic remains of the marine fauna. According to the content of P2O5, there are distinguished the rich (more than 28%), medium (20-28%), and poor (less than 20%) ores. The phosphorites distinguish themselves by the constantly increased content of uranium (0.005-0.02%), and in the series of cases by the increased concentrations of the rare earth elements (up to 0.07-0.3%) and pyrite.

The phosphorite deposits of the basin are being developed within Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Syria (Table). There is planned (1985-90-ies) the operation of the deposits within Iraq (Akashat with the designed productive capacity of the mine 3.4 million tonnes of the ore per year), Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The largest volume of extraction (up to 10 million tonnes) is planned at the Abu Tartur deposit, the detailed exploration of which is being continued (1980).

(Table) The extraction of phosphorites within the Middle East phosphorite-bearing basin, million tonnes
Country 1978 1979 1980 1981
Egypt 0.64 0.70 0.66 0.72
Israel 2.22 2.83 2.09 2.40
Jordan 2.83 2.9 3.91 4.24
Syria 0.80 1.0 1.22 1.3

The development of the deposits is performed by the open pit (Syria), underground (Israel), or combined (Egypt, Jordan) methods. The ores, which are extracted, with the minimal industrial content of the P2O5 of approximately 24-25% are subjected during the re-working process to the crushing, sieving, aerial separation, and calcined roasting at the temperature of 950-1000 degrees Celsius, with the obtainment of the marketable phosphoritic concentrates (the content of the P2O5 is more than 30-33%). Approximately 80-90% of the concentrates are exported into the countries of Europe and Asia.