Austria - Mining
After a period of postwar expansion, mineral production has stagnated in recent decades, and metals mining continues to decline, because of high operating costs, increased foreign competition, low ore grades, and environmental problems. All the metal mines in the country were closed, except an iron ore operation at Erzberg (producing 1.8 million tons of iron ore and concentrate in 2000) and a tungsten operation at Mittersill, which was the West's largest underground tungsten mine. Most of the growth in the mineral resources area was in the production of industrial minerals, the area in which future mining activities will most likely be concentrated, mostly for domestic consumption.
Austria produces 2.5% of the world's graphite, ranking 10th in the world, and is one of the world's largest sources of high-grade graphite. In 2000, estimated output was 12,000 tons, down from 30,000 in 1996. The country produces 1.6% of the world's talc, ranking ninth, with a reported output in 2000 of 133,060 tons of crude talc and soapstone. The country's only producer of talc, Luzenac Naintsch AG, operated three mines, in the Styria region, and produced a range of talc, chloritic talc, dolomite talc, and chlorite-mica-quartz ores.
Other minerals, with 2000 output in tons, include: limestone and marble, 23,824,000; dolomite, 7,152,000, for the domestic cement industry, along with calcite and limestone; gypsum and anhydrite, 946,000; brine salt, 400,000 (salt mines are owned by the government, with plans to privatize the operations); tungsten, 1,600; pumice (trass), 3,961; and crude kaolin, 119,000, down from 298,000 in 1998. Gold production in 2000 was 100 kg. Crude magnesite production was reported at 726,000 tons in 2000.
Lignite production has been declining since 1963, when output was 6,053,000 tons, reaching 1,110,000 tons in 1996. Production of bituminous coal declined steadily after World War II, and in 1968 ceased altogether. The government introduced a new privatization plan in 2000, having completed a 10-year privatization program in 1997.