The entire world is full of conveyor belts. Pulled along a system conveyor rollers, these incredible pieces of engineering usually go unnoticed and are underappreciated, but the world would be a very different place without them. They are used for everything from moving heavy boxes around shipping warehouses to the essential element in food making processes.
Deep within the Western Sahara, in the middle of nothing else but dry wasteland, stands the world’s biggest conveyor belt system. It’s so large in fact, that it can be seen from space. This massive construction expands over 61 miles and it is utilised to transfer phosphate stone through the desert.
The automated conveyor belt system starts its quest at the Bou Craa Phosphate Mine. Phosphate is utilised as a essential farming fertiliser and this Moroccan-managed territory has over 85% of the planet’s current reserves. Phosphate is in high demand around the world and we all consume around Forty million tonnes each year, therefore it is obvious why such a huge structure had to be constructed. The belt model is ST 2500 and it is only 80cm broad but has a maximum transporting capacity of 2000 tonnes of crude phosphate stone per hour. The many conveyor rollers that comprise this system are crucial to the smooth functioning.
The Bou Craa phosphate mine was found in 1947 by the Spanish. The phosphate deposit found in the area were actually uncommonly close to the surface and were definitely of really high purity, therefore it made it a perfect place to mine, despite the fact that mining didn’t entirely begin before the 1960’s. Since the start of operations, the mine has continued to expand and already covers an astounding 1,225 hectares. Its output in 2001 was 1.5 million metric tonnes of refined phosphate, an abnormally large percentage of the planet’s supply from a single mine.
The belt, which has been functioning for more than 30 years, ends its 61 mile voyage at the El Aain coastline where the load is refined and distributed. The belt isn’t enclosed and over time, moving phosphate rock continues to be transported by the prevailing wind and kilometres of land south of the belt now appears totally white from outerspace.
The Bou Craa conveyor belt has such a vital role to play that in case it ever failed, food costs all over the world would significantly raise as stocks of phosphate fertiliser would become scarcer. Who’d have imagined a simple conveyor belt can be so tied to the worlds food? With only a tiny bit of exaggeration, you might claim that the conveyor rollers and belt contained within this system are what enables millions of men and women around the globe to eat.
The Bou Craa conveyor is actually a accomplishment of technology and one of a kind. It really is improbable that we will see one more conveyor belt of similar proportions built in our lifetimes.
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