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The Natural Environment

Mineral Resources

Asia is rich in known mineral resources, and additional resources are suspected in some areas, such as Tibet, which are still unexplored geologically. Asia is particularly endowed with energy resources. Petroleum and natural gas are well distributed, but the greatest concentrations of mapped energy fuels are at the head of the Persian Gulf; in parts of Indonesia, especially Sumatra and Borneo; in northern and interior China; on the shores of the Caspian Sea; and in the West Siberian Plain. Large offshore reserves are believed to exist along the coasts of China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and western India.

Since Vietnamís economy began opening to foreign investment in the late 1980s, offshore oil and gas reserves have been tapped for commercial production. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines each claim all or part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, an area thought to contain rich energy and mineral reserves.

Coal exists in great abundance in Siberia, northeastern India, and especially in Shaanxi province in northern China, which contains 30 percent of Chinaís proven reserves. Despite enormous reserves, China is a coal importer because it does not have the capacity to transport sufficient coal from the northern to the southern parts of the country.

With the exception of Turkey, which is a major chromium producer, metallic minerals are relatively scarce in Southwest Asia. China and Siberia are particularly well endowed with mineral resources. Malaysia is rich in tin and India in iron and manganese ores. Indonesia has bauxite, which is used in aluminum production. Gemstones such as diamonds are found in Siberia, and sapphires and rubies occur in South and Southeast Asia. Other important mineral resources include gold, silver, uranium, copper, lead, and zinc. The major manufacturing centers of Asia, such as Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, have few or no significant mineral resources.

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