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Economy, Mining

Cordillera Oriental, Tolima, Muzo, petroleum operations, national petroleum company

Petroleum and coal are Colombia’s chief mineral products. A number of other minerals are extracted, including gold, silver, emeralds, platinum, copper, nickel, and natural gas. The petroleum operations are under control of a national petroleum company and several foreign-owned concessions. Production of crude petroleum is centered in the Magdalena River valley, about 650 km (about 400 mi) from the Caribbean, and in the region between the Cordillera Oriental and Venezuela; it amounted to 302 million barrels in 1999. Much of Colombia’s oil is shipped to Curacao for refining. New oil reserves discovered 200 km (125 mi) east of Bogota are expected to provide Colombia with energy self-sufficiency into the 21st century, with annual extraction from the reserves of 180 million barrels anticipated by the late 1990s. Colombia is one of the world’s leading exporters of coal. Two-thirds of an annual production of 32.8 million metric tons comes from a single open-pit mine, the world’s largest, on the Guajira Peninsula. Some 5.1 billion cu m (180 billion cu ft) of natural gas was produced in 1999.

Gold, mined in Colombia since pre-Columbian times, is found principally in the department of Antioquia and to a lesser extent in the departments of Cauca, Caldas, Narino, Tolima, and Choco. Platinum, discovered in Colombia in 1735, is found in the gold-bearing sands of the San Juan and Atrato river basins. Colombia has the largest platinum deposits in the world, producing about 51,500 troy oz annually. The chief emerald-mining centers are the Muzo and Chiver mines. Still other mineral products are lead, manganese, zinc, mercury, mica, phosphates, and sulfur.

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