On Tuesday, Mauritania and its partly government-run ore mining company, SNIM, reported that they expect to make 13 million tons of iron ore in 2014. That’s a lot of iron.
A majority of the iron ore in the North African country is found in its vast deserts, which are isolated from the major shipping ports on its coast. How does the ore get to the ports, and how do the laborers, who come from all over all the world for the promise of work, get to the mines? They take the train, of course.
Huge ships come from all over the world to pick up loads of freight. Nouadhibou is also home to many retired and abandoned ships, and is known as the world's largest ship graveyard.
Nouadhibou is the western end of the Mauritania Railway. From here, the tracks run deep into the desert, some 437 miles.
Every day, around 100 people pile on board the train, which isn't even technically meant for people, save a few old passenger cars at the end of the train. Tickets cost four dollars for the passenger train. Hitching, of course, is free.
They come from all over the world for the promise of work. This man, a business official, came from China. Last year, 76% of all Mauritania's exporting was attributed to SNIM's iron ore shipped to China.
On paper, the train officials frown on hitching a ride on the Mauritania Railway, but it's the only way to get to the eastern desert towns.
Travellers experience extreme temperatures on the ride. The cars can get extremely hot in the mid-day sun and very cold when the sun sets.
After 17 arduous hours, passengers finally reach Zouérat, the largest town in Northern Mauritania, and home to country's the biggest iron ore mine.
Workers and their families live near the mines. The people of Zouérat are fond of calling their town the 'Lung of Mauritania's Economy.'
The town itself has a population of 38,000. Most of them work at one of the three mines in the area.
And like clockwork, the train leaves Zouérat every day, filled with iron ore and people, headed back to Nouadhibou.
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