Country Listing

Jordan Table of Contents



Jordan's mineral wealth and extractive industries constituted a major source of its gross output manufacturing as well as of its total value added in manufacturing (see Manufacturing , this ch.). Such natural resources also represented a significant element in Jordan's exports.



Phosphate mine, southern Jordan


Unloading phosphates, Al Aqabah Port

Phosphate deposits were Jordan's primary natural resource and a major source of export income. Estimates of Jordan's proven, indicated, and probable reserves ranged from 1.5 billion to 2.5 billion tons. Even if the more conservative figure were the most accurate, Jordan could produce at its present rate for hundreds of years. Total 1987 production was 6.7 million tons, of which 5.7 million tons were exported as raw rock. The remainder was upgraded into fertilizer at several facilities and either retained for domestic use or exported. Jordan was the third ranked phosphate exporter in the world, after Morocco and the United States, and it had the capacity to produce well over 8 million tons annually. In 1986 phosphate sales generated US$185 million in income, which made up 25 percent of export earnings and gave Jordan a 10 percent share of the world market. Sales by volume in 1986 increased approximately 14 percent over the previous year, but profits rose only 4 percent, an indication of the depressed price for phosphates on the world market. In 1986 long-term agreements were concluded with Thailand and Yugoslavia that assured the added export of almost 1 million tons per year.

In 1985 the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company closed the country's original phosphate mine at Ar Rusayfah near Amman because it produced low-grade rock; this left major phosphate mines in operation at Al Hasa and Wadi Abu Ubaydah near Al Qatranah in central Jordan, and a new high-grade mine at Ash Shidiyah, forty kilometers south of Maan, where according to one estimate, reserves were more than 1 billion tons.

Among Jordan's major development projects was the construction of a US$450 million processing facility near Al Aqabah, completed in 1982, to produce monoammonium phosphate and diammonium phosphate fertilizer, and other chemicals such as phosphoric acid from raw phosphate rock. The project was envisioned as a boon to the extractive industry because it would increase value added in its major export commodity. Instead, it became an encumbrance as the prices of sulfur and ammonia (which Jordan had to import to produce the diammonium phosphate) rose while the price of diammonium phosphate on the world market slumped. Production costs of diammonium phosphate at various times between 1985 and 1987 ranged from 110 percent to 160 percent of world market price for the product. Nevertheless, Jordan remained cautiously optimistic about the long-term prospects for the fertilizer industry because of its geographic proximity to the large Asian markets. In 1985 Jordan exported more than 500,000 tons of fertilizer, primarily to India and China.

Data as of December 1989