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The status of mineral production in the Caribbean Basin countries.

Martino O
Energy and mineral potential of the Central American-Caribbean region. Miller RL, Escalante G, Reinemund JA, Bergin MJ eds. Circum-Pacific Council for Energy and Mineral Resources Earth Science Series, volume 16. Berlin: Springer, 1995 Jan; :31-45
This paper is designed to set the general stage for the technical papers on resources that follow. Any inquiry into the mineral potential of the Caribbean Basin needs to consider as a point of departure what mineral fuels (oil, gas, and coal), metallic minerals, and industrial minerals are already being produced in the Caribbean Basin countries. The region of the Caribbean Basin is comprised of 25 countries and dependencies with a population of 187 million. This population represents about 47 percent, oralmostone-half, of the total population of Latin America, which is approaching 400 million. The Caribbean Basin is characterized by a large diversity of ethnic, cultural, geological, and mineral endowment conditions. Aside from Mexico and Colombia which are well endowed by nature, the other Caribbean Basin countries have a limited diversity of mineral output. This lack of diversity is especially apparent in the export sector. Some countries depend almost exclusively on exports of bauxite, gold, ferronickel, or petroleum. By far the most important and most valuable mineral commodities produced today in the Caribbean region are the hydrocarbons-petroleum and natural gas. Of the 12 countries in all of Latin America that produce crude oil, seven are located in the Caribbean region. This Caribbean group produced 75 percent of Latin America's crude oil output in 1987. Of the seven producers, only Mexico and Venezuela are of world rank. As a nearby market, the United States has become highly dependent upon the Caribbean producers for its imports of crude oil and petroleum products. In recent years U.S. imports from the Caribbean have reached almost one-third of total U.S. oil imports, including shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Colombia has the largest resources of coal in Latin America, estimated at about 40 billion MT, and is now the largest producer and exporter of coal in all of Latin America. Colombia's rapid expansion of coal output dates from 1982. The Caribbean Basin is the only area in all of Latin America with installed capacity to exploit geothermal energy sources. This is not surprising when one considers the volcanism and seismic activity in the area. The output of precious metals in the region is the second most valuable after crude oil, amounting to about $1.2 billion compared with $30 billion for oil. The production of gold is relatively widespread and not as concentrated in a few countries as is that of bauxite and iron ore. One-half of the countries in the region have been gold producers, while silver output has been more concentrated and only Colombia produces platinum. Colombia is the predominant gold producer in the region, followed in importance by Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. In terms of value, bauxite ranks after gold and silver and iron ore among the metallic minerals produced in the region. Of the 25 countries or dependencies in the Caribbean region, only five have been significant bauxite producers in recent decades. In order of importance they are Jamaica, Guyana, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Aluminum and ingot aluminum are also produced in the region. Venezuela is expected to become a significant producer and exporter of aluminum because of abundant bauxite reserves and low-cost energy. Nickel, cobalt, and manganese are the chief strategic minerals produced in the Caribbean region. Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia are the major producers. Cuba has the largest reserves of nickel in the world and is the only significant producer of cobalt in the Caribbean. Aside from Mexico and Colombia, the countries in the Caribbean Basin do not have as diversified a record as producers of industrial minerals. The most important industrial minerals produced in the region include cement, clays, gypsum, and salt. Of the 25 entities in the Caribbean, 19 produce cement. In practically all basin countries, materials are extracted to meet the domestic demands of the pervasive construction industry. To summarize, mineral production in the Caribbean Basin is dominantly based on the energy minerals in the form of petroleum, natural gas, and coal. In addition, important geothermal sources of energy are being exploited. Of lesser value is the output of the precious metals-gold, silver, and platinum-and of bauxite, iron ore, nickel, cement, gypsum, and salt. The United States is highly dependent on the Caribbean Basin countries for its imports of energy minerals. The text is augmented by numerous historical production tables and by a chronology of selected mineral developments.
Minerals; Mineral processing; Mineral deposits; Metallic minerals; Metals; Petroleum; Natural gas; Coal
Publication Date
Document Type
Miller RL; Escalante G; Reinemund JA; Bergin MJ
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
OP 204-95
NIOSH Division
Source Name
Energy and mineral potential of the Central American-Caribbean region
Page last reviewed: June 15, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division