The Economy - Resources
Bulgaria is relatively poor in both quantity and quality of natural resources. This situation has been an important factor in planning the national economy and foreign trade. The primary indigenous mineral resources are coal, copper, lead, zinc, and iron ore.
Coal and Minerals
Lignite, by far the most prevalent form of coal, is mined chiefly in the Maritsa-zapad (West Maritsa) and Maritsa-iztok (East Maritsa) sections of the Maritsa Basin. The main source of other grades of brown coal is the Bobov Dol deposit in the Rila Mountains of southwest Bulgaria. There is little bituminous coal in the country. Copper is mined chiefly in the Sredna (central hills) in the western Balkans, and at Chelopets in south-central Bulgaria. There are also large deposits of lead, zinc, and iron ore, the largest of which are at Kremikovtsi. Bulgaria became self-sufficient in the production of pig iron in 1987. Manganese, uranium, gold, salt, and chromium also are mined. Small amounts of oil are extracted offshore in the Black Sea and inland near Pleven.
In 1987 approximately 56 percent of Bulgaria's total land mass of 11,055,000 hectares was used for agriculture. Of that total, 3,825,000 hectares, or 35 percent of the total land mass, was arable. Although natural conditions are very good for some crops, not all of the land is ideal for agricultural purposes. Large portions of the western uplands are suitable only for tobacco and vegetable cultivation. Grain fields on the rolling plain to the north of the Balkan Mountains receive limited rainfall and experience periodic droughts.
Although Bulgaria has had serious environmental problems for some time, they were not openly discussed until the overthrow of Zhivkov. Ecological groups were at the forefront of anti-Zhivkov demonstrations in 1989, when an all-European ecology conference focused world attention on Sofia. After acknowledging the problem, post-Zhivkov policy makers rated degradation of the air, water, and soil as one of the most serious problems facing Bulgaria. In April 1990, the Ministry of Public Health declared the cities of Asenovgrad, Dimitrovgrad, Kurdzhali, Panagyurishte, Plovdiv, Ruse, and Vratsa, ecologically endangered regions and announced that residents of these regions would be given medical examinations. But after forty years of touting heavy industry as the pathway to national advancement, Bulgaria could not easily remedy the intense pollution of chemical plants in Ruse and Dimitrovgrad or the copper smelters at Srednogorie without further damaging its already shaky economy. Likewise, the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant on the Maritsa River, provider of over 20 percent of the country's electric power but a persistent emitter of radiation, could not be closed without severe impact on the economy. Radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl' accident in the Soviet Union also remained an environmental hazard in 1991.
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