Mineral resources are treasures of the soil that are discovered as a result of exploration works and accessible for industrial use. Minerals are irreplaceable natural resources. Mined mineral raw stuff and products of its processing are the main source of energy, 90% of production of heavy industry and about one fifth of all consumer goods are made of minerals as well.
Mineral resources provide a raw-materials source for industrial potential, economic and national safety. Mineral and raw stuff products are the main income item of Russian export. In 1992-1999 export of mineral provided approximately 40% of currency income of foreign trade, one third fell at mineral fuel and energy resources. In view of export of metals, mineral oil, sale of electric power and other products of mineral processing, this rate goes up to two thirds of national export.
The share of enterprises and organizations concerned with investigation and extraction of minerals in gross domestic product of Russia is about 10%, together with enterprises of heat and nuclear power industry and processing of mineral raw stuff - it is almost 20%. 1.5 million people are engaged in minerals extraction. And another 1.5 million - in their processing.
Deposits with estimated explored reserves form a source of raw materials for different industrial branches of the country (ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, power, fuel, chemical, building). Explored reserves are the reserves of mineral wealth discovered in the Earth's interior as a result of realization of a complex of exploration works and estimated with accuracy sufficient for designing and economic estimation of expediency of construction of a mining enterprise. Estimation of mineral reserves are based on realization of single excavations and geologically proved interpolation of parameters used for estimation of explored reserves.
Raw materials source of Russia plays an important role in the global mineral raw stuff complex. Nearly 20 thousand deposits of minerals are discovered and explored in Russia. More than one third of them are in industrial operation. Major and unique deposits (about 5%) contain almost 70% of minerals and provide 50% of mineral raw stuff output. Deposits of Russia form over 10% of the global explored reserves of petroleum, one third - of gas, 11% - of coal, 26% - of iron ores, a significant part of explored reserves of non-ferrous and less-common metals. Volumes of explored reserves of nickel, platinoids and platinum, diamonds, and some other minerals of the Russian Federation win the first - third places in the world. There are large reserves of apatites, potash salts, fluor-spar and other nonmetallic mineral resources.
A distinguishing feature of mineral raw stuff source of Russia is its integration - it includes practically all kinds of minerals: fuel and energy resources (petroleum, natural gas, coal, uranium); ferrous metals (iron, manganous, chromic ores); non-ferrous and less-common metals (copper, lead, zinc, nickel, aluminium raw stuff, tin, tungsten, molybdenum, antimony, mercury, titan, zirconium, niobium, tantalum, yttrium, rhenium, scandium, strontium etc.); precious metals (gold, silver, platinoids) and diamonds; nonmetallic minerals (apatites, phosphorites, potassium salt and sodium chloride, fluor spar, mica-muscovite, talc, magnesium, graphite, barite, piezooptic raw stuff, precious and ornamental stones etc.). Russian mineral raw stuff potential is sufficient for realization of independent and effective economic policy.
Even in conditions of economic crisis and recession of minerals extraction, Russia annually produces 9-10% of petroleum, about a quarter of all gas, 5-7% of coal, 7-8% of commodity iron ores, 12-20% of nickel and cobalt, more than 10% of tungsten, a significant part of other non-ferrous and less-common metals, gold, silver, platinoids and platinum, diamonds; up to 6% of phosphoric concentrate, 12% of potassium salts of the global extraction volume.
According to the most precise estimations total value of explored and estimated reserves of Russia equals 30 trillion US dollars. Mineral reserves of the USA are estimated in about 19 trillion dollars. About three quarters of them fall to petroleum, gas, coal. However this huge mineral raw stuff potential is investigated only partially.
It is also necessary to mention that needs of Russian industry in manganese, chrome, mercury, antimony, titan, uranium and in a number of other minerals earlier were almost completely satisfied by deliveries from former republics of the USSR. Besides quality of ores of basic minerals in Russia essentially concedes in comparison with similar foreign deposits. As a result of this and also because of abrupt rise of electricity charges and costs of energy carriers, repeated increase of transport tariffs and indigested tax system the significant part of explored reserves is unprofitable in modern economic conditions. Actual reserves, i.e. those which development in modern conditions is economically expedient, are: iron ores - 85% (including 56% of operating mining enterprises), copper - 70 (47), lead - 73 (62), nickel - 61 (61), bauxites - 52 (33), titan - 68 (2), tin - 38 (37), tungsten - 16 (16), molybdenum - 50 (23), niobium - 32 (17), tantalum - 41 (20), phosphorites - 21 (16), apatites - 53 (52), coal - 70 (42, including reserve sectors).