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.
Data as of 1989