Editorial Feature

Belgium: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Belgium, with a total population of 10,438,353 as of July 2012, is located in Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands. Belgium covers a total area of 30,528 km2 and has a temperate climate.

Belgium gained independence from the Netherlands in 1830 and in the next half century the country established itself as a technologically advanced and modern European state and a member of the EU and NATO.

The national flag of Belgium.
Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Belgium has very few natural resources - it shares approximately three-quarters of its trade with other EU countries and the country has benefited a lot from its ties with Germany. In 2011, the country saw an improvement in its budget deficit but its public debt was almost 100% of its GDP. Belgium’s GDP as of 2011 was $418.6 billion.

In recent years, mining has been playing a less significant role in Belgium’s economy, and in 2010 mining in Belgium was carried out only for industrial minerals.

Overview of Resources

Belgium’s key natural resources include industrial and construction materials such as limestone, cement, silica sand, and dolomite. The leading mineral operations in Belgium include the production of steel and the refining of zinc, copper, and minor metals.

The country also produces cobalt, tin, cadmium, tellurium, selenium, and germanium. The production of construction and industrial materials such as silica sand, limestone, cement and dolomite contributes a lot to Belgium’s well-developed industrial minerals sector.

Industrial Minerals

Belgium is a leading trader of diamond. In 2010, a turnover of $41.9 billion was achieved from Belgium’s rough and polished trade. The country’s export of polished diamond increased by 7.1% by volume to 7.79 million carats and the value of polished diamond increased by 28.6% to $11.1 billion in 20102, compared with that of 2009.

Metals

In 2010, Belgium saw an increase in its production of pig iron and crude steel due to an increasing demand for steel and the recovery of the world steel industry. The production of crude steel in Belgium increased by 53% and that of pig iron increased by 43.5% in 2010.

During December 2008 to September 2009, Nyrstar’s Balen smelter was under maintenance, due to the globally decreasing demand for zinc. However, the production of zinc at the smelter resumed in full swing in the first quarter of 2010, boosting Nyrstar’s plans to increase zinc production by the end of 2010.

The map of Belgium. Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Fossil Fuels

In 2010, Belgium had no economically exploitable reserves of coal and the country imported significant quantities of raw materials.

Investment

Four chief mining sites of the southern French-speaking region in Belgium have been recognized as World Heritage sites by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. These mining sites include Blegny-Mine, the Bois du Cazier, Grand-Hornu, and Bois-du-Luc.

Belgium’s Nyrstar, the world’s largest zinc producer, expects to mine 310,000-350,000 t of zinc in concentrate in 2012 despite supplier warnings. The company has also been keen on maintaining its mining targets for other metals that include gold, lead, and copper.

Belgium expects to see a continuous increase in its steel production sector due to the reactivation of the automobile market and an increase in the demand for steel. Besides this, the country also aims to remain a chief diamond trader and mineral processor in the future.

Belgium has four major ports that include Zeebrugge, Antwerp, Ostend, and Ghent. Through these ports, the country expects to play a major role in intra-European and international cargo handling of mineral products. Belgium also plans to focus more on its renewable energy sector going forward.

Disclaimer: The author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources and Further Reading

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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