The world is filled with conveyor belts. Pulled along a system conveyor rollers, these amazing components of technology often go unnoticed and they are underappreciated, but the entire world would be a very different place without them. They are used for anything from transporting heavy boxes around shipping warehouses to the crucial element in food production processes.
Deep inside the Western Sahara, surrounded by no other thing but barren wasteland, stands the earth’s largest conveyor belt system. It’s so large actually, that it could be seen from space. This massive construction expands over 61 kilometres and is utilised to transport phosphate stone across the desert.
The automatic conveyor belt system begins its experience at the Bou Craa Phosphate Mine. Phosphate is utilised as a essential agricultural fertiliser and this Moroccan-operated territory has around 85% of the world’s current reserves. Phosphate is sought after around the globe and we all consume around 40 million tonnes per year, so it is clear why this type of huge structure needed to be constructed. The belt model is ST 2500 and it is only 80cm wide but features a peak transporting capacity of 2000 tonnes of raw phosphate stone per hour. The many conveyor rollers that comprise this system are very important to its sleek functioning.
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The Bou Craa phosphate mine was discovered in The late 1940s by the Spanish. The phosphate deposits situated in the area have been uncommonly close to the surface and were of specially high purity, therefore it made it an excellent location to mine, although mining didn’t fully start before the 1960’s. Since the start of operations, the mine continues to expand and already covers an incredible 1,225 hectares. The production in 2001 was 1.5 million metric tonnes of refined phosphate, an uncommonly huge percentage of the planet’s supply from just one mine.
The belt, which has been functioning for over 30 years, ends its 61 kilometre journey in the El Aain shoreline where its load is processed and shipped. The belt isn’t enclosed and over time, drifting phosphate rock has been transported by the prevailing wind and miles of land south from the belt now looks completely white from outerspace.
The Bou Craa conveyor belt has such a vital role to play that if it ever failed, food prices all over the world would noticeably increase as supplies of phosphate fertiliser would come to be scarcer. Who’d have thought a simple conveyor belt will be so fixed in to the worlds food? With only a small amount of exaggeration, you might state that the conveyor rollers and belt contained in this system are what allows millions of people around the globe to eat.
The Bou Craa conveyor is actually a feat of engineering and exceptional. It is improbable that we’ll see another conveyor belt of similar proportions built in our lives.