South America is relatively rich in mineral resources. However, they are highly localized: few countries have a good balance of fuels and raw materials within their boundaries, and two countries, Uruguay and Paraguay, are nearly devoid of mineral wealth. Nevertheless, South American economies have traditionally relied on a foundation of mining, fishing and forestry, agriculture, and non-exportable manufactures.
Large quantities of oil and natural gas are found in several areas within South America. The greatest quantities are located in the sedimentary layers surrounding Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo and the adjacent Caribbean coastal margin. Venezuela also has major deposits of oil and natural gas in the area surrounding El Tigre. The country is one of the world’s largest oil producers and exporters. The Venezuelan government’s seizure of operational control of foreign-owned private oil operations in 2007 had important implications for the region. That same year, the natural gas reserves and oil industry of Bolivia (centred in the eastern lowlands around Santa Cruz) were nationalized. Since 1972, Ecuador has also been a major oil exporter, exploiting fields in the Amazonian region east of the Andes.
Oil fields were brought into production in the early 1970s in the Peruvian portion of the Amazon basin west of Iquitos. Argentina and Chile share significant deposits bordering the Strait of Magellan in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Additionally, Argentina has traditional oil-producing regions around the Patagonian city of Comodoro Rivadavia. Brazil has limited offshore oil and gas reserves.
Colombia has long been self-sufficient in oil and gas production, with primary areas in the central Magdalena River valley and the Putumayo area adjacent to its border with Ecuador.
South America is poor in coal. Colombia exports coal from La Guajira Peninsula and the lower Magdalena River basin south of Barranquilla, and Argentina has limited quantities of good-quality coal at El Turbio in the extreme south.
Brazil produces relatively small quantities of coal in its southern states, while areas in northwestern Venezuela and south of Concepción in Chile also have coal mines that once supplied fuel for steamships.
South America contains about one-fifth of the world’s iron ore reserves. The most important beds are located in Brazil and Venezuela, supplying domestic iron andsteel industries as well as significant exports. The great majority of the continent’s reserves are in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, Pará, and Mato Grosso do Sul, where lodes of magnetite and hematite ores contain up to 50 to 65 percent iron content. In Venezuela, sites like Mount Bolívar and El Pao in the Sierra de Imataca at the base of the Guiana Highlands have reserves of ore containing a high percentage of iron. High-quality beds of this type are also found at Mutún, Bol., and in the central part of the Chilean Andes. Oolitic iron ore (i.e., ores consisting of small round grains cemented together) is found at Sierra Grande in Argentina and Paz del Río in the Cordillera Oriental of Colombia.
In addition, important iron ore deposits are located at Marcona, Peru, and along a narrow belt from Taltal to Ovalle in northern Chile. Lateritic deposits of ferrous hydroxides are widespread, mainly in Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina.
Among ferroalloys, manganese occurs in sedimentary forms in the Brazilian states of Amapá and Minas Gerais, as well as in highland Bolivia. It is also found in much lesser quantities in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Uruguay. South America is generally deficient in nickel, chromite (chromium ore), and cobalt, although small quantities of all these minerals are found along with other industrial trace minerals in the central Andes of Peru, in several areas of eastern Brazil, and in the central and northern Argentine Andes. Chile has the second largest reserves of molybdenum in the Americas, trailing the United States. © "United States of America" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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