Mauritania is a country in West Africa that hosts the world’s largest open pit iron mines. The trade of this mineral is one of the country’s main economic resources and comes to on to market via a continuous circular railway which connects the mines to refineries where the iron is processed and finally shipped to port for export.
There is a railway line linking Zouerate, in the centre of the country, location of the most important iron mine, to Nouadhibou, the main port and also home to the refineries that are the backbone for this industry. The so-called “Iron Train” is the longest train in the world. It is over 2.5 km long, and made up of innumerous freight cars and only two passenger carriages. The train leaves the port empty to reach the mines where the ore is loaded ready to go back to Nouadhibou to be refined and sold. The trip lasts more than 18 hours and the convoy covers this route once every two days.
In addition to being used for the transportation of minerals, the train is the fastest means of transport for Mauritanians who need to go from the coast to the desert. Passengers not only use it for themselves, but also for their livelihoods. For example, many herders use the Iron Train to move their herds and many others undertake the journey in search of work in the mines.