The Casablanca International Mediation and Arbitration Centre (CIMAC), officially launched in late  2014, aims to bring a modern and streamlined alternative dispute resolution system to Morocco. Coming in addition to the  modernisation of the mining regulations, the centre provides mining investors in the region with a  credible and well-supported dispute resolution mechanism which may be used widely as an alternative to the local courts.

With eighty-five per cent of the world's phosphate reserves located in this part of Africa, as well  as significant reserves of iron ore and uranium, mining companies are among the region's largest  investors. Arbitration is generally viewed as the most appropriate forum for the resolution of  disputes arising from these investments. Indeed, the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des  Mines, or ONHYM, has standard form templates for mineral exploration and sale which provide for the  arbitration of disputes, with Morocco as the venue. The streamlining of arbitration in Morocco can  therefore only assist in providing mining investors, through such ONHYM contracts or otherwise,  with efficient recourse. As can be seen from high profile disputes elsewhere in Africa, such as the  pending arbitration involving Randgold Resources in Mali, there is a material risk of disputes in  such investments, and the efficiency of the forum inevitably has a significant impact.

The launch of the CIMAC builds on steps already in progress in Morocco's development towards an  efficient arbitral venue. The State has already reformed its legislation and can boast a modern law  on international arbitration and mediation, based on widely accepted UNCITRAL model principles. It  is also a party to both the New York Convention, facilitating the enforcement of arbitral awards,  and the World Bank's ICSID Convention, allowing investors recourse against the State if  international investment protection law is not respected. The CIMAC will go one step further in  enabling disputes based in Morocco to be run efficiently, while at the same time raising awareness  of arbitration and thereby assisting in the reduction of interference by the local courts. The  Centre has the capacity to deal with arbitrations in Arabic, English and French, and its gateway  location between the EU, Africa and the Middle East may even be significant within the wider  region, providing a potentially valuable compromise venue for parties doing business between these  regions.

At the CIMAC's launch, the Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane highlighted the importance  of a neutral dispute settlement institution, independent from the court system, particularly in  terms of efficiency. As he observed, "the Moroccan court system, like everywhere in the world, is  characterised by the slowness of its procedures, something which is not compatible with the  exigencies of the business world; hence the importance of a developed arbitral system". Further  encouragement to potential users comes from the institution's aim to be fully international,  including a substantial number of foreign individuals on its list of arbitrators and even the  appointment of a foreign president to its arbitral court.

The launch of the CIMAC is part of the wider plan of King Mohammed VI to make Morocco a regional  focal point for business, with the reform of the mining laws and the establishment of the  Casablanca Finance City some of the headline projects in the aim of establishing Morocco as an  efficient and stable place to do business. Certainly, the launch of the centre, in providing a viable option for the resolution of disputes, may assist all investors in the region, in the mining  sector or otherwise.