Aid & Development

Phosphate production company in al-Qaim, Iraq, left in ruin by ISIS

Iraq

Key phosphate factory located in western Iraq on the border with Syria has been left completely destroyed after ISIS turned it into a base to produce car bombs and IEDs.

Iraq’s major phosphate factory, which is located in the western city of al-Qa’im, was once used to produce fertiliser for agricultural purposes. After ISIS’ takeover of large swaths of Iraq in 2014, the space was converted by the group into a factory to produce IEDs and bring about death and destruction.

Located on the border with Iraq and Syria, the phosphate production factory was established forty years ago to aid in the production of phosphate in the country. According to geologic data, Iraq has the second largest phosphate reserves in the world. However, the production of phosphate goods was restricted in the 1990s after the UN discovered uranium ore in many of the phosphate mines. This forced Iraq to mine phosphate only to be used in the agricultural industry.

Until 2014, the fertiliser factory in al-Qaim produced almost 2 million tonnes of phosphoric products annually, although this activity soon came to a halt when ISIS took over the city.

According to observers, the militant group used the raw materials and equipment in the factory to create car bombs, chemical weapons and IEDs used to target civilians throughout Iraq and Syria.

“Most equipment, utensils, and materials were stolen,” said Kareem al-Karbouli, a member of Anbar Provincial Council. “ISIS used the facility as a base for making car bombs and IEDs.”

Following the liberation of al-Qaim in November of 2017, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) regained control of the factory clearing tonnes of war remnants and IEDs planted by ISIS on the main road.

“There are large amounts of war remnants found in the phosphate plant, which were planted on the main roads and inside the factory lobby,” said Colonel Saleh al-Dulaimi, an officer in the Iraqi Army. “Our units and military engineering units have been able to lift them.”

However, due to the amount of damage that was inflicted on the factory, the 3,000 workers who operated the factory before have not been able to return to work.

Furthermore, due to the risk of ISIS sleeper cells infiltrating the Iraqi-Syrian border due to the ongoing operations in Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zour Province, the factory is still at risk.

While the revenue that the factory can bring once operated is large, the Iraqi Government must work carefully on removing all of the war remnants removed by ISIS before reconstructing the factory, in order provide a safe workspace for the workers.