Mining is New Mexico’s primary economic activity based on natural resources, and New Mexico ranks among the leading states in mineral production. The most important minerals are natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, potash, crushed stone, and sand and gravel used in construction.
There are major oil fields in Eddy, Lea, and Chaves counties in the southeast and in McKinley and San Juan counties in the northwest. McKinley and San Juan counties also have major natural-gas fields. In 1997 New Mexico ranked fourth among the states in the production of natural gas and seventh in petroleum production. Coal is produced in the northwest and the northeast. Nearly all of it is used in coal-burning power plants in the Four Corners region in New Mexico and Arizona. The York Canyon Mine near Raton, however, supplies large quantities of coal to states in the upper Midwest.
Almost one-fifth of the annual U.S. output of uranium was once mined in New Mexico. In the late 1990s, however, only a small amount was being produced by processing mine water because of a dramatic decline in demand. Uranium was discovered at Haystack Mountain in 1950. Major sources of uranium were McKinley and Valencia counties and Shiprock, on the Navajo Reservation in San Juan County.
Copper is New Mexico’s most important nonfuel mineral. In 1997 New Mexico ranked third, behind Arizona and Utah, in copper production. The Chino mine, near Santa Rita, is today one of the largest in the world. Other copper operations are situated near Animas, Tyrone, and Bayard.
Silver and gold are obtained largely as by-products of copper smelting. Potash, a potassium concentrate used mainly in fertilizer, is the state’s second most important nonfuel mineral. Copper and potash together usually account for four-fifths of the value of New Mexico’s nonfuel mineral production. Much of the nation’s potash is mined near Carlsbad and Hobbs. New Mexico is also the country’s leading producer of perlite, and its second largest producer of pumice and mica. "New Mexico" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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