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Economy, Mining

Venezuelan government, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, refined oil, OPEC, bauxite

Petroleum, located in the Maracaibo Basin and in the eastern part of the country, dominates the Venezuelan economy. Crude and refined oil are the main source of government revenue and account for about one-quarter of the GDP. In 1999 Venezuela produced 1.10 billion barrels. Much of its oil is exported to the Netherlands Antilles for refining. Venezuela is a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The Venezuelan government nationalized the petroleum industry in 1976, although private investment and foreign participation has been permitted since 1992. The country has petroleum reserves estimated at 78 billion barrels, including those in an oil field discovered in 1989, which increased known reserves by at least one-third. The country also is a major producer of natural gas; output in 1999 was 30.9 billion cubic meters (1.09 trillion cubic feet). Venezuela has tapped its vast reserves of bitumen to produce liquid coal, an emulsion of bitumen and water principally for use in power plants.

Other commercially exploited minerals include bauxite, diamonds, gold, silver, platinum, coal, salt, copper, tin, asbestos, phosphates, titanium, and mica. Iron ore, in extensive deposits, was discovered near the Orinoco River in the 1940s. In 2000, 11.1 million metric tons of iron ore were mined, most of which was exported. Margarita Island, off the northern coast, has substantial magnesite reserves.

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