Libya depends primarily on revenue generated from its oil industry, which provides all foreign export earnings as well as contributing a third to Libya’s GDP. To date, there are no other commercial mining ventures. Due to the country’s geology being exposed in some of the most desolate and barren regions of the country, access is not easy, as these areas remain largely uncharted.
The basement, which constitutes part of the East Saharan craton, is uniquely located between the Arabian-Nubian Shield to the east and the Hoggar Massif to the west. Upper Archaean exposures suggest potential for the location of diamondiferous kimberlites, however, there appears to have been a Pan African tectonothermal event that has overprinted much of the area, downgrading diamond preservation potential along the East Saharan craton. However, the presence of several high grade metamorphic belts suggests potential for gold, iron ore and base metals in Libya. Several tertiary ring complexes are well exposed to the south of the country.
Solid mineral production in Libya is largely for the cement industry, for which an estimated 150,000 t/y of gypsum is used in addition to the basic feedstock of limestone and clay. Some 30,000 t/y of salt is produced by solar evaporation in coastal pans near Benghazi and Tripoli and approximately 13,000 t/y of sulphur is recovered from petroleum and natural gas refining.
The Waddi Shatti iron ore deposit located some 900km from the coast appears to have potential as a possible feed to the Misurata steel complex which currently imports its ore. Here a resource of 795Mt of iron ore grading at an average 52% iron has been identified. Although the government is keen to develop the deposit, foreign investment is required to develop the infrastructure to the mine through the development of a 900km long railway line.