The entire world is full of conveyor belts. Taken along a system conveyor rollers, these incredible pieces of technology often go unnoticed and therefore are underappreciated, but the entire world might be a very different place without them. They are utilised for anything from transporting heavy cases around shipping warehouses to a essential element in food manufacturing processes.
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Deep within the Western Sahara, in the middle of no other thing but dry wasteland, stands the world’s biggest conveyor belt system. It is so big in fact, that it could be viewed from space. This huge framework expands over 61 miles and is used to transfer phosphate stone over the desert.
The Bou Craa phosphate mine was discovered in The late 1940s by the Spanish. The phosphate deposit situated in the area were uncommonly close to the surface and were definitely of particularly high purity, so it made it a perfect place to mine, although mining didn’t fully begin before the 1960’s. Since the beginning of operations, the mine continues to grow and now covers an incredible 1,225 hectares. The production in 2001 was 1.5 million metric tonnes of processed phosphate, an uncommonly sizeable proportion of the planet’s supply from one mine.
The belt, which has been functioning for over 30 years, ends its 61 mile journey at the El Aain coastline where the load is refined and distributed. The belt is not encased and over time, moving phosphate rock has been transported by the prevailing winds and kilometres of land south of the belt now looks totally white from outer space.
The Bou Craa conveyor belt has such a crucial role to play that in case it ever failed, food costs around the world would noticeably increase as supplies of phosphate fertiliser would become scarcer. Who would have imagined a straightforward conveyor belt could be so tied to the worlds food supply? With only a small amount of exaggeration, you could claim that the conveyor rollers and belt contained within this system are what allows millions of people all over the world to eat.
The Bou Craa conveyor is really a accomplishment of engineering and extraordinary. It is unlikely that we’ll see another conveyor belt of similar proportions made in our lives.