Though Spain's mining sector, including the coal-mining industry, employed only 80,000 persons and was responsible for only about 1 percent of the country's GDP in the late 1980s, Spain was an important producer of minerals. It was one of the world's leading producers of slate and strontium. It ranked second in the production of granite and marble; third, in pyrites and natural sodium sulfate; sixth, in fluorspar; seventh, in kyanite and other refractory minerals; eighth, in magnesite and potash; ninth, in tantalite; and tenth, in anthracite, asphalt, and bentonite.
Spanish mineral production was of particular significance to the EC because Spain was its sole producer of mercury, natural sodium sulfate, and tantalite. Moreover, Spain mined approximately 9 percent of all EC copper, 86 percent of its antimony, 65 percent of its gold and pyrite, 47 percent of its silver, 41 percent of its lead and magnesite, 38 percent of its iron ore and tungsten, and 28 percent of its fluorspar and zinc. In addition to mining, Spain was an important processor of raw minerals, both those produced domestically and those imported from abroad. Although Spain was the most self-sufficient member of the EC with regard to minerals, imports were needed to meet about 30 percent of its needs.
In the mid-1980s, Spain's mining industry suffered from the depressed state of the world minerals market, and the production of most substances had declined. The drop in the value of the dollar, the dominant currency in the mineral trade, further reduced the sector's profits, which had already been damaged by declining sales. Spanish production of copper, tin, and wolfram all declined by more than 75 percent in 1987. The production of iron, pyrites, and fluorspar also dropped significantly in the same year. Zinc, potassium salts, uranium, and lead production remained steady during this period, however.
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