Where are those "Moderate" rebels?
(Business Insider) - The Islamic State militant group is touting its newfound control of giant phosphate mines in Syria.
The Khnaifess mines, which sit along the main highway between Damascus and Palmyra, the ancient city overrun by the Islamic State last week, are the second-largest phosphate mines in the country. Syria has some of the largest reserves in the world; in normal times they produced about $60 million in revenue a year.
The Damascus propaganda branch of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has published a series of photos of the phosphate mines as the latest example of the group's growing power.
It is unclear whether ISIS has the required logistics and expertise to operate the mines, let alone export the phosphate, given that a significant percentage of Syria’s phosphates is bought by the EU. Syria is among the world's largest exporters of the rock, but the war has marred its ability to mine and market its supply.
ISIS has sold oil and antiquities on the black market and relies on those sales, along with protection money and local taxes, to fund its system. ISIS has in the past advertised for engineers to come work on the refineries it has captured, in some cases offering salaries starting at $200,000.
In 2011, the mines were responsible for about 1.6% of the world's supply of phosphate rock and ranked ninth in the world in terms of the volume of its phosphate production. In the first half of 2014, the General Company for Phosphate and Mines reported sales of $30 million on production of almost 500,000 tons, down from 2 million tons in 2011.
"With the suspension of oil exports, phosphates represented one of the last sources of income of the state," according to Syria Report, an online business weekly.
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