Spain: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Spain is located in southwestern Europe and borders the Pyrenees Mountains, the Bay of Biscay, the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It has a total area of 505,370 km2, and its population was 46.72 million as of 2018. The climatic conditions of the country vary from temperate in the central regions to moderate along the coast.

The national flag of Spain.
The national flag of Spain.
Image Credits: CIA Factbook

The country is rich in natural resources, including kaolin, sepiolite, gypsum, fluorspar, uranium, zinc, lead, copper, tungsten, iron ore, and coal. The country was severely affected by a civil war in the 1930s, which slowed down its economic growth. However, the transition to democracy and rapid economic modernization during the 1980s made the country one of the strongest economies in the world.

Spain’s economic recession in late 2008 resulted in the country’s GDP decreasing by 3.7% in 2009 to $1.402 trillion, and by 0.1% in 2010 to $1.400 trillion. However, due to an increase in the country’s trade and investment, improvement in infrastructure and structural reforms, its GDP increased to $1.494 trillion in 2011. In 2018, Spain’s GDP experienced a 2.5% growth increase.

Overview of Resources

Spain has abundant reserves of lead, uranium, tungsten, mercury, magnesite, fluorspar, gypsum, sepiolite, iron, nickel, crude oil and natural gas. The country’s significant mineral products include copper, zinc, gold, steel, coal, cement, and alumina.Globally, Spain is:

  • The fifth-largest producer of gypsum
  • The fifth-largest producer of fluorite

In 2018, the total export value of Spain amounted to $345.2 billion, whereas its total import value amounted to $388 billion, which is comparable to its 2009 values of $326.7 billion and $360.3 billion respectively.

The map of Spain.

The map of Spain. Image Credits: CIA Factbook

In 2018, the majority of Spain’s exports included vehicles; making up approximately 17.1% of its total exports that year. Other significant exports included mineral fuels, including oil, machinery (such as computers and other technology), plastic materials, pharmaceuticals, fruits, nuts, clothing, iron, and steel. These primary exports accounted for almost 56% of Spain’s total global shipments in 2018.

Metals

In 2010, the Inmet Mining Corp of Canada acquired Las Cruces copper mine, which was estimated to contain 17.6 metric tons (MT) of proven copper reserves. The total production capacity of the mine was 72,000 metric tons per year (MT/yr) of copper cathode and 1 MT of copper ore.

Ormonde Mining plc of Ireland also began exploring the Salamanca-Zamora area, which was considered to be one of the significant gold terrains in the country.

Orvana Minerals Corp. (OMC) of Canada acquired El Valle-Boinas and the Carles copper and gold skarn deposits in northern Spain. The deposits were estimated to contain indicated reserves 6.4 MT grading 4.7 g/t gold and 0.80% copper and inferred resources of 7.3 MT grading 5.4 g/ton gold and 0.45% copper. In 2011, OMC planned to begin production in the El Valle-Boinas and Carles gold-copper project with a total capacity of 750,000 MT/yr.

Spain was reported to be the world’s sixteenth largest producer of steel in 2017. By 2018, Spain reportedly exported 8.9 million MT of steel, which unfortunately was a 7% decrease from that which was exported in the previous year.

Compared to more substantial steel exporting nations, such as China and Japan, Spain’s steel exports measure at 14% and 25% of what is produced in those nations respectively. The primary importing nations of Spain’s steel include France, Portugal, and Italy.

As of December 2017, Spain’s aluminum exports provided the nation with approximately USD 3 million in revenue, which is an increase from the previous year’s USD 2.34 million.

Industrial Minerals

Between December 2017 and 2018, Spain’s cement output was estimated to be 13.4 MT, which was 1.1 MT greater than what was achieved between December 2016 and 2017. The two primary cement companies that currently operate in Spain include Cementos Mexicanos and Votorantim.  

The production capacity of Minerales y Productos Derivados S.A. (MINERSA) that operated three fluorite deposits in Asturias was 150,000 t/yr of fluorspar. The combined capacity of the Emilio, the Jaimina, and the Moscona underground mines is 420,000 tons/yr of crude ore fluorspar. In 2010, the total amount of fluorspar output in the country was 131,000 tons, compared to 122,408 tons in 2009.

In 2010, Iberpotash S.A. or ICL Fertilizers Europe announced the first stage of construction of a plant at Suria for $260 million to produce vacuum salt. The company has planned to expand potash production capacity of Suria to 1.1 MT of potash and 1.5 MT of salt.

The Grupo Tolsa S.A acquired River Tajo Basin, which was estimated to have more than 15 MT of saprolite. In 2010, the country’s saprolite output was 770,000 t.

Fossil Fuels

As many countries around the world are looking towards more environmentally-friendly energy sources, the Spanish government and its unions entered a $258 million USD deal in which coal miners would be provided with early retirement funds, while younger miners would be provided with retraining programs that will allow them to accommodate the new energy trends of this nation.

With many coal miners around the world fearing unemployment as a result of the rise in renewable energy use, Spain has emerged as a leader that proves a nation can simultaneously transition away from polluting energy sources while also protecting their citizens from losing work. By 2050, Spain plans to decarbonize their nation completely and rely entirely on renewable energy for their electricity needs.

As of March 2019, Spain’s crude oil production was estimated to be 0.96 thousand barrels per day. This crude oil production includes crude oil, shale oil, oil sands, and natural gas liquids (NGLs). As Spain’s production of crude oil continues to decline, they have become more dependent on importing crude oil from various other countries, including Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Nigeria. In December 2017, it was estimated that Spain imported 1,350 barrels of crude oil each day.

Poseidon, operated by Repsol YPF S.A., is the major natural gas producer in the country. Although Spain’s natural gas production fluctuates each year, this nation produced a total of 2.19 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2015.

Recently, Australia-based Berkeley and Spanish state-owned Enusa have signed an agreement to recover the uranium production at the Addendum Reserves, which include the Villar deposit, the unmined Alameda deposit, and others. According to Berkeley, the total amount of uranium oxide reserves in the Addendum Reserves is 30.6 million pounds.

Investment

Spain has one of Europe’s most diverse mining industries, which produces most of the industrial minerals. Owing to the gold reserve discoveries at the El Valle-Boinas and Carles deposits in northern Spain, highly prospective geology, and the Rio Narcea Belt, the country has attracted many foreign investors. Also, the country’s skilled workforce, well-developed infrastructure, and fiscal policies and legislative framework have encouraged foreign investment in its mineral industry.

However, the country’s mineral output is not enough to meet the domestic requirements, and hence, it continues to be a large-scale importer of mineral products. In an attempt to reduce its dependence on imports, the Spanish government planned to increase the country’s trade and investment, improve its infrastructure and revise its laws according to European Union (EU) guidelines in 2010. Recent investments and exploration efforts in Spain have allowed this country’s mining output to grow by 20% in 2017.

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

This article was updated on the 18th July, 2019.

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