Ethiopia's minerals industry has been only of minor importance, contributing an average of less than 0.2 percent of GDP at constant factor cost between l984/85 and l988/89. Although it had reported the existence of a wide range of minerals throughout the country, the government had authorized little exploration. Thus, there are no reliable estimates of the extent of mineral resources. However, there has been some small-scale mining for minerals such as gold, platinum, salt, limestone, and clay. Gold has been mined at Adola (in Sidamo) for many years. In l981/82 output at this site in southern Ethiopia averaged around 500 kilograms per annum. However, by 1985/86 production had dropped to 293 kilograms. In l987 the government reported the discovery of large gold deposits in Lege Dimbi, also in Sidamo. Observers believed that prospectors mined an annual average of 7.5 to 8 kilograms of platinum in the Yubdo area in Welega.
Stretching inland from the Red Sea coast, the Denakil Depression has large salt deposits. Production averaged some 20,000 tons annually. Other major salt sources are found at Aseb and around Mitsiwa, also on the Red Sea. According to some estimates, Ethiopia produces about 300,000 tons of marine and mined salt annually. However, this supply fails to satisfy domestic needs because the government exports salt to improve its hard-currency reserves.
A large potash deposit, estimated at l40 to l50 million tons, is located in Tigray's Dallol area. Production has averaged less than l million tons per year.
Large iron ore deposits are scattered throughout the country. During the Italian colonial period, a few companies started iron-mining operations in Eritrea but abandoned them after the Italian occupation ended in 1941. In the late 1980s, prospectors identified iron ore deposits estimated at 20 million tons in the Agametta region (near Mitsiwa) and another l60,00 tons of iron ore in Welega and Bale.
Copper, lead, and zinc deposits are found near Debarwa, thirty-five kilometers southwest of Asmera. In l973 the Ethio-Nippon Mining Share Company started mining copper in Debarwa. However, the Eritrean war forced an end to operations two years later.
Limestone is excavated near Mitsiwa, Dire Dawa, and Addis Ababa. The limestone is used chiefly at the cement works operating in those cities.
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