10 December 2019
Macedonia, officially known as the Republic of North Macedonia, is a landlocked country in Southeast Europe located in the Balkan Peninsula. It is a successor state of Yugoslavia from which it declared independence in 1991 as the Republic of Macedonia. Following a conflict with Greece over the name, Macedonia changed its name to the “Republic of North Macedonia” in February 2019. The country is bordered by Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Kosovo. With an area of approximately 25,713 square kilometers, it is the 145th most extensive country in the world. North Macedonia has a population of about 2.1 million inhabitants and a population density of 207.5 persons per square mile. The majority of the population are the ethnic Macedonians while Albanians and Turks also account for a significant majority.
The Natural Resources Of Macedonia
Since independence, the economy of North Macedonia has undergone considerable reforms. The country is considered an open economy with trade accounting for about 90% of the GDP in recent years. The country’s reserve has been boosted by privatization. North Macedonia host several natural resources including precious minerals such as gold, iron ore, silver, copper ore, manganese, and lead. Other major resources include non-metallic minerals, arable land, and agricultural products such as tobacco, grapes, and vegetables.
Mining, quarrying, electricity steam, and gas accounted for 15.6% of the country’s GDP in 2014 and the share is expected to increase as many firms (180) are involved in the exploration of the country’s national resources. Below are some of the major natural resources of North Macedonia.
Copper And Gold
Macedonia has one of the longest mining histories in the Balkan Peninsula with active minerals such as copper and gold among other minerals. Copper and gold are some of the oldest minerals in the country and have been used in many ancient cultures. Today, copper is mainly used in construction and as a conductor in electrical equipment. Gold is mainly used in coinage, dentistry, and electronics. Macedonia has several copper and gold mines, the majority of which are still in the exploration stage.
According to the USGS, North Macedonia has a total reserve of approximately 79,030 kilograms of gold and 510 million tons of copper. In 2014, the only operating copper mine was the Buchim Mine and was operated by Solway Investment Group Limited of Cypres. The company is also currently exploring the Kadiica Mine. There are also several gold projects in the country including the Ilovica gold-copper project owned by the EUromax Resources. Other gold and copper mining projects under exploration include two exploration concessions being held by Reservoir Minerals.
Lead And Zinc
Lead and zinc are some of the most important and valuable metallic resources of North Macedonia. The two minerals have been produced in the Sasa Mine which was operated by Solway Investment Group Limited and the Toranica and Zletovo Mines operated by Indo Minerals and Metals. The Zletovo mine is situated in the eastern part of the Kratovo-Zletovo volcanic complex. The deposits found at the mine have been classified as sub-volcanic hydrothermal zinc-lead, composing of pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite, and galena. The reserve at Zletovo mine is estimated to be approximately 13 million tons. Solway Investment Group Limited invested US$ 22 million to prepare and upgrade the mine with facilities and equipment.
North Macedonia is a significant producer of lignite with over 2.5 billion metric tons of lignite reserves. Lignite has been a major resource for electricity production in the country. Coal is mainly explored by AD ELEM in several mines including Brod-Gneotino Mariovo, Suvodol, and Drimkol Mines. The largest coal mines in the country are the Suvodol Mine and Oslomej Mine with a total capacity of 7 million tons per year and are estimated to last approximately 15 years. The Pelagonia basin is currently being explored for possible lignite deposits.
The country’s average consumption is 7.6 million tons of which about 95% is used in power generation. With the current level of consumption, Macedonia is expected to start importing coal from 2025 since some of the current mines are quickly running out of coal deposits. Half of the coal imported will likely go into electricity production.
Other Mineral Resources
Apart from the above mineral resources, Macedonia also has abundant metal resources such as iron ore, steel, nickel, and silver. These resources are found in different parts of the country including Zelezara Skopje, Zivojno, and Mariovo, and contribute significantly to the country’s mining sector. However, these minerals occur in small quantities and are currently under exploration. The government of Macedonia is looking to partner with foreign companies intending to make the minerals, especially iron ore, economically viable.
Agriculture plays an important role in the economy of Macedonia. It is the 3rd largest sector and contributes greatly to the country’s export. Crops such as wheat, grapes, tobacco, and vegetables are some of the largest cultivated crops in the country. Wheat farming is concentrated in the south-central region of Macedonia while cereals such as corn and barley are produced throughout the country.
Annually, the country produces approximately 378,000 tons of wheat, 142,000 tons of barley, and 200,000 tons of corn. Other important crops produced in the country include tomatoes, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and sugar beets. Macedonia is also a major producer of grapes, producing an average of 32,000 tons every year.
Macedonia’s forestry sector has been neglected for so long, owing to its limited contribution to the GDP. The sector is normally combined with the agricultural sector, making it difficult to measure its contribution to the economy. Macedonia has one of the largest forest covers in the Balkan, covering approximately 950,594 hectares or 37% of the total land area. By growth, high forests account for less than 30% of the total forest cover while the low forest accounts for 70%.
The forests in Macedonia contain about 60 million metric tons of living forest biome. In the last ten years, the average gross volume of timber harvested is 1.03 million cubic meters of which 76% have originated from the state-owned forest and the rest from the private forest. About 75% of the timber harvested is mainly used as fuelwood, especially in industrial processing.