Nonferrous metals are abundant in South America. The continent’s copper reserves represent more than one-quarter of the world’s known reserves, nearly all of which are found in Chile and Peru. In Chile the Chuquicamata deposits of the northern Atacama Desert contain the largest amounts of copper known in the world and have ores containing 2.5 percent copper. The El Teniente mine in the Andes southeast of Santiago also has important copper reserves. Peru’s most important deposits are found in the country’s central Andean ranges near Yauricocha, Morococha, Casapalca, Cerro de Pasco, and Huarón, as well as in the south, where the Toquepala mine opened in 1960. Copper also is found in Argentina and highland Bolivia and at Caraíba in the Brazilian state of Bahia.
Bolivia ranks among the world’s four or five largest tin producers. Sedimentary deposits and veins of tin occur in the country’s eastern Andes in a narrow belt extending roughly from Oruro to Potosí. Significant tin deposits also occur in Brazil’s western Amazon basin near the Madeira River.
Lead and zinc are dispersed among many countries but are found in greatest abundance in the central Andes of Peru; in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil; in highland Bolivia; and in the northern Argentine Andes. Bauxite is extracted in Guyana and Suriname; there are also major production centres near Ciudad Guayana in Venezuela and in several places in the eastern Amazon basin of Brazil. Small quantities of mercury occur in the central Andes of Chile and near Huancavelica in Peru. Antimony is found in Bolivia and in lesser quantities in central Peru.
Despite the fact that South America was Europe’s treasure trove for gold and silver from the 1530s through the late 1700s, in the early 21st century the region contributes only a small percentage to the world’s production of these precious metals.
Brazil is South America’s leading gold producer, with deposits in the Amazon basin accounting for much of the output. Traditional mining centres in Minas Gerais, Goiás, and Mato Grosso have diminished in importance. Placer deposits in Colombia’s Atrato River basin are significant sources of gold, and the metal is still produced also in Venezuela and in classical gold-mining centres in the central Andes of Peru, in the Andes of Chile, and in the Carajás area in Brazil. Peru has historically been one of the world’s main silver exporters, primarily from mines extending from Cerro de Pasco to Huancayo in the Andes, but production has decreased since the early 1970s. Ecuadorean silver is located primarily in the Andes, while Colombia, Argentina, and Bolivia also exploit this metal in their highland areas.
Platinum is found in the Cordillera Occidental of Colombia as well as in smaller quantities in association with the copper-mining activities of central Peru. Many regions of South America, mainly in Brazil, are famous for their gems. The ancient bedrocks of the Brazilian Highlands, especially in the states of Minas Gerais and Goiás, are rich in precious and semiprecious stones, including diamonds. However, Brazil contributes only a small percentage to world diamond production.
Other precious or semiprecious stones abound in the same region, notably topazes, tourmalines, beryls, aquamarines, chrysoberyls, garnets, opals, and sapphires, as well as quartz of sufficiently high grade for use in the electronics industry. Colombia is famous for its emeralds, found primarily in the Muzo mines of the Cordillera Oriental. Various elements used in industry, such as beryllium, niobium (columbium), tantalum, thorium, lithium, rare-earth metals, and mica, are extracted in South America. Brazil, from the Northeast through Minas Gerais, and Argentina’s Sierra de Córdoba are important sources for these minerals. "South America" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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