The Republic of Korea did not have significant natural resources, and its limited supplies of iron ore, coal, copper, lead, and zinc had to be supplemented by imports. In 2000, 188,000 tons of iron ore and concentrate (metal content) was produced, down from 272,000 in 1998. The output met 1% of the country's demands for its crude steel industry (which ranked sixth in the world) and its pig iron industry (which ranked eighth). Output of zinc was 11,474 tons (the Korea Zinc Group became one of the largest primary zinc producers in the world); lead output was 2,724 tons, down from 5,131 in 1996. No mine copper was produced in 1997, 1999, and 2000. The ROK also produced the metals bismuth, cadmium, gold, nickel, and silver. Among industrial minerals, the ROK produced barite, hydraulic cement, diatomaceous earth, feldspar, graphite, kaolin, limestone, mica, nitrogen, quartzite, salt, sand (including glass sand), soda ash (manufactured), sulfur, and talc and pyrophyllite. No barite was produced in 1997–2000, and no fluorspar in 1998–2000. The production of chemicals and steel ranked third and fifth, respectively, among the country's leading industries in 2002, and steel ranked fourth among export commodities.
After four years of prospecting, Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., of Canada, announced the discovery of two epithermal gold-silver veins near Haenam, Cholla Province, with potentially high-grade gold-silver mineralization. The government continued to support state-owned or privately owned enterprises that invested in such mineral-rich countries as Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Chile. The Korea Development Bank sold off the government equity in Pohang Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. (POSCO), which had diversified interests and holdings, including a high-grade iron ore deposit in the Pibara region of Western Australia with proven reserves of 200 million tons. Two-way trade with North Korea continued to grow.