Imider Silver Mine, Morocco

Imider is the biggest mine on the African continent, and 7th largest producer of silver in the world. It is also home to a 5-year long fight, as a group of protesters has been living on Mount Alebban, protecting the village's groundwater.


Imider is the biggest mine on the African continent, and 7th largest producer of silver in the world. It is also home to a 5-year long fight (preceded by decades of mobilizations), as a group of protesters has been living on Mount Alebban, about 300km east of Marrakesh, since August 2011.   The mine is run by Societe Metallurgique d'Imider (SMI), founded in 1969. SMI started extracting silver in 1978. Some protests took place in 1986 against the digging of a well which would have had a negative impact on local inhabitant and farmers. Leaders of the protest were imprisoned and wells were dug, to the detriment of the local community.

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Basic Data
NameImider Silver Mine, Morocco
Province Tinghir Province, Drâa-tafilalte administrative region
SiteImider (or Imiter)
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Mineral ore exploration
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Mineral processing
Specific CommoditiesWater
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn recent years the mine produced between 185-240 tonnes of silver-metal, with 99.5% purity.

So far, the protesters estimate they have withheld more than three million tonnes of water from SMI since 2011. A 2014 report found that after villagers cut off one water source to the mine, SMI’s processing capacity dropped 40 percent in 2012, and 30 percent in 2013.

A report issued by INNOVAR, an independent hydrogeological group based in Temara, Morocco, found that the mine has had a devastating impact on Imider’s khettara system, a traditional underground canal network that has provided water to farmers in the desert region since the 14th century.

Explicitly attributing the decrease of water to the mine, the report found that the wells constructed by the mine in 2004 caused a 48 percent decline in water transported by the three khettaras in Imider between 2004 and 2005. In the same year, farmers’ wells dropped by 1.25 metres [2].
Type of PopulationUnknown
Potential Affected PopulationLocal farmers, Amazigh people
Start Date01/08/2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesSociete Metallurgique d'Imider (Imiter Metallurgic Company, SMI) from Morocco - Operator
Relevant government actorsThe Imider Mine is operated by La Societe Metallurgique d'Imider (Imiter Metallurgic Company, SMI) a subsidiary of Managem S.A.. Managem is owned by Societe Nationale d'Investissement (SNI), a private holding company owned by the Moroccan royal family.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Led by Berber Amazigh community, Migrant workers, unemployed youth
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of alternative proposals
Land occupation
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Closing down of one of the water sources - financial impact felt for 2 years, social media activism
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Waste overflow, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
As a result of the protest the mine was forced to operate at reduced capacity. One activist has spent 4 years in jail and others have also been arrested.
Development of AlternativesThe demands of the protesters are simple. They want an independent environmental study on the impact of the mine. They want jobs and education, better infrastructure and health care.

They demand that 75 percent of all future jobs in the mine should go to young people from Imider.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.While the mine is still operating, and justice has not been served, the persistence of the organising is admirable. Further the resistance has led to increased democratic organizing with the encampment holding regular general assemblies using the Agraw system, an ancient model of Amazigh democratic tribal governance that include men, women and children from the seven villages comprising Imider, who meet twice a week to assess the community's situation and strategies.
Sources and Materials

[1] Alan Green (2015). Moroccan silver draws miners and protesters. Middle East Eye. 20 August 2015
[click to view]

[2] Nadir Bouhmouch and Kristian Davis Bailey (2015). A Moroccan village's long fight for water rights. Al Jazeera Online. 13 December 2015
[click to view]

[3] Financial Times (n.d.). Societe Metallurgique d'Imiter SA
[click to view]

[4] Zakariaa El Farhi (2016). Five years of Protests against a Silver Mining Company in “Imider”. The Moroccan Times. 18 November 2016.
[click to view]

[6] On Moroccan Hill, Villagers Make Stand Against a Mine, By AIDA ALAMI, JAN. 23, 201
[click to view]

[5] Imider vs. COP22: Understanding Climate Justice from Morocco’s Peripheries, Jadaliyya, Nov. 21., 2016
[click to view]

Media Links

Official website
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protesters in Imider have been taking turns for five years to block access to their water source.
[click to view]

The protest camp holds regular general assemblies using the Agraw system, an ancient model of Amazigh democratic tribal governance (Credit: Nadir Bouhmouch/Al Jazeera)
[click to view]

Imider protesters on top of an Atlas Mountain. The text on the ground reads Not For Sale (MEE Archive, February 2014)
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An activist with the Berber flag. New York Times.
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Meta Information
ContributorPlatform London
Last update06/03/2017