Mining is not an important sector of the Nicaraguan economy, although the small amounts of gold and silver that are extracted provide much-needed export income. The country's two principal gold and silver mines are the Bonanza and the Siuna mines, located in northeast Nicaragua about 100 kilometers west of Puerto Cabezas. A small gold mine, the El Limón mine, operates north of León. All mines were nationalized by the government in 1979, and state control, combined with the fact that the two largest mines are in areas where the Contras operated, caused production of gold and silver to drop in the 1980s. The 1988 production figures of 875 kilograms of gold and 500 kilograms of silver were less than half the 1983 production figures. Small amounts of copper, lead, and tungsten have been mined in the past, and the country has unexploited reserves of antimony, tungsten, molybdenum, and phosphate.
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