Since ancient days, mining and the iron industry have been of great importance in the economic life of Sweden, which was among the most active mining countries in Europe. Iron and steel comprised Sweden's top industry and fifth-leading export commodity in 2002—one-third of Sweden's exports were from steel—and chemicals ranked sixth among export commodities. Sweden accounted for a large percentage of Western Europe's iron output, and was home to the region's largest gold mine.
Iron-ore production in 2000 was 12.75 million tons (metal content), down from 13.91 in 1997; reserves totaled 1,230 million tons. The Bergslagen region, in central Sweden, yielded high-grade ores for quality steel. Lead, copper, zinc, gold, and silver were produced in the rich Skellefte (Boliden) region, where bismuth, cobalt, and huge quantities of arsenic were also found. The open-pit Björgal gold mine upgraded its facility, to increase production capacity to 3,000 kg per year, from 2,600 kg per year in 1996. Further south, phosphate, tungsten, kyanite, and pyrite were found. Sweden also produced hydraulic cement, kaolin clay, feldspar, fertilizer, graphite, lime, quartz, quartzite, dimension and crushed stone (including dolomite, granite (for domestic use and for export), limestone, sandstone, and slate), sulfur, and soapstone talc. Marble (in Askersund) and ilmenite were also found in Sweden. Production on the Blaiken zinc/gold mine was expected to start in 2001, and reverse circulation drilling for diamonds was done on the Svartliden gold project.