Morocco is a stable and relatively well-developed north-African country, which is host to a considerable wealth of mineral resources and presents significant opportunities for foreign mineral exploration companies. The mineral industry is Morocco’s largest foreign exchange earning sector (>35% of foreign trade, >5% of the GDP), and is dominated by phosphate mining, but of importance are also the mining of cobalt, nickel, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, antimony, manganese, iron ore, fluorspar, barite, talc, clays, anthracite, salt and petroleum. In 2011, Morocco produced 14% of the world’s output of phosphate rock (making it the world’s 3rd ranking producer), 8% of the world’s output of barite, 3% of the world’s output of cobalt, and 1% of the world’s output of fluorspar (source: USGS). Among the advantages of operating in Morocco for a foreign company are the country’s long mining history, well-developed infrastructure, low sovereign risk, low mining taxation rate of 17.5% and a mining royalty of 3%. Foreign company participation in the mineral industry, foreign ownership of mining facilities, and the repatriation of profits are allowed by the government. The country has also stable political and financial systems (source: Pham Mining, 2011). Morocco is currently home to ca. 90 mining companies, the bulk of which are local.
The government agency responsible for oversight of the mineral industry in Morocco, including all exploration permitting and regulatory matters is the Ministère de l’Energie, des Mines, de l’Eau et de l’Environnement [Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment], together with its regional divisions. On the other hand, the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines [ONHYM - Office of Petroleum and Mines], formerly called BRPM [Bureau de Recherches et de Participations Minières] is the primary agency responsible for the exploration and promotion of national mineral resources. The only exception are phosphates, which comprise 75% of the world’s estimated total phosphate reserves, the mining and beneficiation of which are managed by the state-owned l’Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP). All minerals are the property of the Government, which issues permits and licenses for the exploration and mining of the mineral resources. Mining legislation is based on the Mining code bill 1–73–412 of August 13, 1973, and is enforced through executive orders and the Directorate of Mines.
Much of Morocco’s metal mining is in the hands of the ONA Group (Omnium Nord Africain), the country’s largest private mining operator, through its mining holding company MANAGEM. The principal subsidiaries of the latter are: CTT or Compagnie de Tifnout Tighanimine (Bou Azzer cobalt mining district), CMG or Compagnie Minière des Guemassa (Hajar and Draa Sfar VMS Zn-Pb-Cu mines), SMI or Société Métallurgique d'Imiter (world-class Imiter Ag mine, Igoudrane Ag mine), SOMIFER or Société Minière du Bou Gaffer (Bleida Cu mine), AGM or Akka Gold Mining (Iourirn Au mine), and SAMINE or Société Anonyme d'Entreprises Minières (El Hammam fluorite mine). Another large private mining group is the CRAM or Compagnie Royale Asturienne des Mines, which largely owns the Compagnie Minière de Touissit (CMT) that mines the remaining MVT-style Zn-Pb deposits in the NE of the country.
Of the foreign exploration companies, the most active include: ASX-traded Kasbah Resources Ltd., focused on the development of the Achmmach tin deposit and adjacent tin plays (in the El Hajeb region of the Central Hercynian Massif); the TSX-traded Maya Gold and Silver Inc. with its Amizmiz (Au), Azegour (Cu-W-Mo), Zgounder (Ag), and Boumadine (polymetallic) properties; and the TSX-traded Metalex Ventures Ltd. with its diamond exploration plays in the southern part of the country. At the moment, there is also a lot of due diligence review being carried out by established foreign companies.
The geology of Morocco consists of five major domains (see Fig. 2):
the Rif terrane - a thrust-fold belt, comprising rocks of various types and ages, including ophiolites, where the deformation of the Meso-Cenozoic series decreases southward. It is the only domain to be part of the Alpine North African system, whereas all the others are related to West Africa. It contains occurrences of zinc, antimony, smectic clays, and strategic metals.
the Mesetian domain (Central and Oran mesetas), characterized by generally low to moderate relief. Here, deformed Paleozoic rocks, including granitoids and metamorphics are unconformably overlain by a platform of gently folded Meso-Cenozoic strata. The Central Meseta is host to Morocco’s world-class phosphate deposits.
the Atlantic passive margin (Coastal Plain) consisting of thick Mesozoic sediments locally deformed by salt tectonics and gravity-induced imbrications with important turbidite sheet deposits basinwards. These are overlain by gently-dipping Miocene to Recent marine and locally continental sediments.
the Atlasic belt (Haut and Moyen Atlas), corresponding to the inversion of the Atlasic through, which was filled by thick Mesozoic sediments. These are mostly Paleozoic metamorphics, Mesozoic carbonates, and subordinate Mesozoic alkalic intrusions, which were all deformed by late Mesozoic folding. This domain is host to numerous occurrences of barite, copper, iron, lead, zinc, and manganese.
the Anti Atlas and Saharian terrane, comprised of Archaean and Proterozoic igneous & sedimentary basement, overlain by gently deformed Paleozoic sedimentary rocks, which was sealed to the Northwest African Craton during the Hercynian orogeny. This mineral-rich domain is host to numerous occurrences of gold, silver, copper, cobalt-nickel, tin, tungsten, titanium, and manganese.
A simplified metallogenic map of Morocco (modified from ONHYM) is shown below, and a snapshot of the geology of northern and central Morocco follows. If you wish to learn more about the country’s mineral legislation, mining, and exploration opportunities, please contact us.