Mauritania is a mostly desert country, such that only 0.5% of the land is considered arable. The country has a population of about 4.1 million people, and the density of 3.9 inhabitants per square kilometer makes it the fourth least densely populated country in the whole of Africa.

Mining and Energy Industry 

The country is a leading producer of iron ore, copper, gold, silver, oil and gas and was one of the world’s top 15 iron-ore-exporting countries and Africa’s third-ranked producer and exporter of iron ore after South Africa and Sierra Leone. Mauritania also produces modest quantities of cement, crude oil, gypsum, quartz, salt, and crude steel. 


Booming revenue from the narrow extractives sector has been the main driver of higher economic growth. The value of mineral exports jumped from US$318 million in 2003 to US$2,652 million in 2013, despite generally stagnant mining production. Extractives represented, on average, 25% of GDP, 82% of exports, and 23% of domestic revenue. The terms of trade improvement is estimated to have brought, on average, 2.5% additional national income per year. The mining boom translated into large foreign investments in the extractives sector and significant state-driven public investments.

Mauritania has been an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)-compliant country since 2012. The EITI processes are designed to promote transparency and to improve living conditions in and around mining sites. The country has an established EITI national committee and a “publish what you pay” coalition chapter, which calls on mining companies to publish what they pay to Governments 

Key stakeholders in Mauritania Mining and Energy Sector

  1. The Ministère du Pétrole et de l’Energie [Ministry of Petroleum and Energy] is responsible for overseeing activity in the mineral fuels industry. The Government approved several amendments to its Hydrocarbon Code and Mining Code in 2011.

  2. The Ministère de l’Industrie et des Mines [Ministry of Industry and Mines] is the Government agency responsible for regulating the country’s mining industry.

  3. The Direction des Mines et de la Géologie [Department of Mines and Geology] implements the Government’s policies to enhance foreign investment in the mining sector.

  4. The Code Minier [Mining Code] awards exploration permits on a first-come-first-served basis for a 3-year period that can be renewed twice for up to 3 years each time. Mining licenses are awarded for a 30- year period and are renewable for up to 10 additional years. The law exempts mining companies from customs duties for equipment during exploration and the first 5 years of production and permanently on fuel and spare parts. 

  5. Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière (SNIM) was the main majority state-owned mining company (78.35% interest) in the country; it operated iron ore mines at Guelb el Aouj, Guelb el Rhein, M’Haoudat, and Zouerate in northern Mauritania. SNIM also owned and operated a 700-kilometer (km) heavy-haul railway and a shipping terminal at the Port of Nouadhibou on the Atlantic coast. SNIM subsidiaries included Granites et Marbres de Mauritanie (GMM) S.A., Société Arabe des Industries Métallurgiques S.A. (SAMIA), and Société Arabe du Fer et de l’Acier S.A. (SAFA) 

  6. Société Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures et de Patrimoine Minier (SMHPM), which is Mauritania’s national oil company, maintained a 10% interest in international oil companies that were conducting petroleum exploration offshore and onshore.

The above is compiled  from the 2014 Mauritania Minerals Yearbook published by US Geological Survey (USGS), the World Bank and EITI. 


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