March 25, 2024

When, after years of geological and geophysical exploration, a phosphate mine was discovered at Bu-Craa in 1964, Western Sahara received renewed geopolitical attention. Several countries competing for the control of the world fertilizer market, including Morocco, Spain, France, and the United States, developed diverging strategies to gain control of the mineral. After intense negotiations revolving around the materiality of mining technologies and involving reserve estimations, sabotage, and flexing of diplomatic muscles, Morocco took over the Spanish colony in 1975. While this secured Morocco’s place in the world market, it condemned the local population to exile and domination. This article explores three technological stages of the exploitation of phosphate in Western Sahara that underpin the geopolitical history. This perspective yields new visions of cold war technology and postcolonial markets.

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Source: JSTOR

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