Mining to Morocco
Trends and opportunities
Morocco’s mining sector is very much developed for phosphates but is still underexplored for other minerals.
Overall, mining contributes 9 per cent of the country’s GDP, represents 30 per cent of its exports, accounts for majority of sea and rail freight and employs over 40,000 people (source: Ministry of Mining).
Morocco has two-thirds of the world’s phosphate reserves. The OCP Group (Office Cherifien des Phosphates) is a state-owned enterprise responsible for exploring, exploiting and exporting phosphate.
Away from phosphates, an estimated $A550 million was injected by private companies in the sector (Source: Mining Ministry). Key minerals include zinc, fluorine, barite, cobalt, bentonite, copper, iron ore, manganese, silver, gold, uranium and rare earth elements. The Moroccan Government’s objective is to significantly raise the share of non-phosphate mining activities within the mining sector.
Morocco updated its mining legislation in 2014, to encourage international investment. That led to an increase in the presence of international companies in both exploration as well as mine development. The new code is expected to attract a vast number of juniors and some majors to Morocco for exploring larger surface areas on highly advantageous terms, including tax incentives.
The size of permit areas increased under the new law from 16 square km to 600 square km, with the possibility of a company obtaining up to 4 permits totalling 2400 square km.
Currently, incentives include:
- customs duty and tax exemptions on imported equipment
- a corporate tax of 15 per cent for export destined products of the mining activity
- a state contribution to infrastructure requirements of between 50 and 70 per cent of total costs for critical investment (including roads, water supply and electricity).
Under the new code, companies can transit from an exploration permit to exploitation relatively smoothly.
There are four areas of opportunities for Australian companies in the Moroccan mining sector:
Exploration and exploitation permits
The Moroccan Government is releasing Requests For Proposals starting September 2017 for mining exploration and exploitation across several commodities, totaling 1404 exploration permits and 23 exploitation permits covering an area of 20,000 square kilometres. The Ministry has set up a one-stop-shop for depositing RFPs and obtaining information on specific permits and commodities.
Mining (except for phosphates) can be carried out by any individual or corporate entity, regardless of nationality, but under the new code, they must prove technical and financial capabilities. Licensing can take two forms:
- Exploration permit: Under the new code, it is valid for an initial period of 4 years and renewable for another 3 years. It gives the holder the right to explore and to determine the presence of one of the classified substances. These terms as well as the surface area are expected to improve with the new mining code.
- Exploitation permit: Valid for an initial period of 4 years, renewable up to three times, with a final extension of up to 12 years. This permit is issued if workable deposits are discovered. It entitles the holder to mine and use any substances deposited in the permit.
A limited number of important projects are promoted by ONHYM (Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines) which is an exploration, valuation and promotional vehicle for both hydrocarbons and mining.
These key projects are awarded either by tender or through direct negotiations and a signed agreement with ONHYM to develop the site and pay royalties to the government once the mine is operational.
It is estimated that 5 to 10 major projects (prospects) will be released every year. ONHYM prospects cover precious metals, polymetallic (including base metals), iron, uranium and rare earth elements.
METS: Mining Equipment, Technology and Services
The important expansion of investments and improvement in methods made by OCP in phosphate represent an opportunity for Australian companies in consulting, technology, equipment and software to the mining industry.
OCP is investing close to A$3 billion to double its production capacity, build a pipeline and upgrade its value added and export logistics.
Australian companies have opportunities to offer products and services to ONHYM’s projects and the Government of Morocco in geological studies and mapping. In addition, opportunities exist in private sector projects, following the new mining code.
Morocco: gateway to Francophone West African opportunities
Morocco has developed very strong relationships with several francophone West African Nations with significant mining opportunities, given the language and cultural ties.
A number of Moroccan organisations are working closely with these countries to attract reputable exploration companies, develop good governance and legislation in the sector.
The Moroccan involvement in francophone West African Nations create opportunities for major reviews and consultations as well as exploration and development for Australian companies looking on their engagement in Morocco throughout francophone West Africa.
Morocco is a mid-sized economy with a GDP of US$101.4 billion (2016), ranked 61 in the world. It has a population of 35 million people. Its economy is underpinned by substantial economic ties to the European Union and while the ongoing weakness in the global economy and the Euro zone crisis had an impact during the GFC, Morocco has weathered the situation relatively well with economic growth of 4.6 per cent since 2008.
The International Monetary Fund reported that:
Despite the slow recovery in the Euro zone—Morocco’s main trading partner—overall GDP is expected to grow between 4.5–5 per cent owing to good agricultural production and the strong performance of the non-agricultural sector, particularly services and domestic consumption. Unemployment is about 9 per cent, but urban and youth unemployment remains high. The major medium-term challenge is to achieve high real GDP growth rates to reduce unemployment and improve living standards.
Morocco has invested significantly in modern infrastructure (ports, airports, freeways, high speed rail) and it is also perceived as a leader in clean energy in the region and has launched the largest solar program in the world thus far.
Morocco’s commitment to modernisation and growth has seen it implement a range of programs (under the umbrella of its National Strategic Plans) which have the potential to generate significant opportunities for Australian companies and strengthen two-way trade relations. These plans include 10 year strategies in agriculture, industry and tourism and more recently in mining.
Key sectors of interest for Australian firms include agriculture and food, infrastructure and water, mining, clean energy, oil and gas exploration, marine, defence, green and sustainable building. There is also growing interest in education and training and capacity building across different sectors and Government.
Tariffs, regulations and customs
Please refer to the Mining Ministry website as well as to the customs website.
Foreign investors in mining are exempted from duties on imported machinery that will be used in their mining develolpment projects.
Marketing your products and services
Australia is highly regarded in Morocco for its mining capabilities both at the Government level and the private sector.
Australian METS companies have already proved their expertise in Morocco, including an engineering project to OCP’s $3 billion expansion program in 2007, as well as technical consultancies for the Ministry of Mining and consultancy projects for ONHYM which include exploration, geological mapping, safety, aerial spectral reviews, GIS, and other areas. ONHYM launches regular tenders every year of interest to METS.
Most important projects like the ones with ONHYM and OCP are accessible by an open and transparent tender process in which international companies submit bids. Most of them however use local consultants to prepare their bidding files for language and bureaucracy purposes.
Links and industry contacts
Government Departments and Business
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