ROLLING STONES & MORE

Lebanon 2012 | ENERGY & MINING | REVIEW: MINING

Lebanon has developed a mining sector that supports its construction materials sector, while making a name for itself internationally with its natural stone varieties.

While Lebanon's borders contain little in the way of exploited mineral deposits, its mining sector has grown to be a strong source of material for the domestic cement sector. Natural stone, having played an important role in the country's aesthetic history, also continues to be a significant player in the mining sector, with Lebanese stone increasingly finding its way onto the international market.

The sector is a major source of silica and limestone, of which 6.4 million tons was produced in 2009 for cement manufacturing, with its production increasing by 15% in 2009 to 4.9 million tons. Holcim is the prime producer of cement with its plant in Chekka. It has historically exported a portion of its output to Iraq and Syria, yet in recent years the majority has been devoted to domestic consumption.

Lebanese natural stone is also finding its market abroad. Marble mining has accelerated in recent years as well, with several companies active in the subsector. “There are plenty of opportunities for everyone. We rely on the local market and exports to the region… we even sometimes sell marble to Italy, Spain, and the Far East," Issam Kazzaz, General Manager of Kazzaz Marble, told TBY in an interview. Cedar stone, found most commonly in the north of Lebanon, has also grown in popularity around the world, yet international sales have slowed due to a general stagnation in the world construction industry following the global financial crisis. “Now that the world market has slowed, we are working extensively with the Chinese market in its sale," Nicolas Loucas, owner of Marm Group, told TBY.

In addition, the country produces construction sand, granite, gravel, gypsum, of which 30,000 tons is produced per year by Sodap Liban, lime, of which 14,000 tons is produced per year mainly by Societe des Chaux et Platres du Liban, and phosphate fertilizer, of which 73,000 tons is produced annually mainly by the Lebanon Chemicals Company, while a further 51,000 tons of phosphoric acid is produced every year. There are also minor deposits of high-grade iron ore, asphalt, coal, lignite, and salt, of which 3,500 tons are produced annually. Output in general is mostly consumed locally by the construction sector, with a small amount of the total destined for export. The mining industry, including the construction materials sector that is reliant upon it for domestic sourcing, accounts for up to 9% of total GDP.