Mining and Minerals
Mining played a small role in the economy in the 1980s, contributing only 0.7 percent to the GDP in 1986 and employing about 7,000 persons. Inaccessibility of the regions where minerals were located and the incomplete exploration of resources hampered mining activities. Although observers believed that Ecuador had reserves of gold, silver, copper, zinc, uranium, lead, sulfur, and kaolin, as well as limestone, the latter dominated the industry. Miners generally produced limestone in many small operations countrywide and used it in local cement plants.
Gold, largely forgotten since its early exploitation in the sixteenth century, grew in importance in the 1980s; by 1987 Ecuador was exporting 2.4 tons per year. The southern Sierra region held the country's largest deposits; the newest veins were discovered in the southeastern province of Zamora-Chinchipe.
In 1985 Congress passed a new law to encourage foreign exploration and investment in the mining industry. Designed to simplify regulation of the industry, this legislation also offered higher financial incentives for the investor and lower overall taxation and established the Ecuadorian Institute of Minerals (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Minerķa--Inemin) under the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
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