In recent decades, crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products have dominated Egypt's mineral industry, petroleum and petroleum products comprising the top export commodity in 2002. Cement was a leading industry in 2002, although consumption declined in 2000. Among nonfuel minerals, phosphate rock (around the Red Sea, along the Nile, and in the Western Desert) and iron ore were the most important in terms of value and ore grade. In 2000, Egypt also produced manganese ore, titanium, ilmenite, asbestos, barite, cement, bentonite, fire clay, kaolin, crude feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum and anhydrite, lime, nitrogen, salt, soda ash, sodium sulfate, basalt, dolomite, granite, dimension stone, gravel, limestone, marble blocks (including alabaster), glass sand, construction sand, talc, soapstone, pyrophyllite, and vermiculite, and there were occurrences of gold, ocher, sulfate of magnesia, and nitrate of soda. The government was engaged in efforts to partially privatize mining and metal assets. Although mineral resources have been exploited in Egypt since antiquity, including gemstones and zinc, some regions of the country remained geologically unexplored. Extraction of limestone, clay, and gypsum during World War II rose in response to the Allied armies' urgent demand.
In 2000, 1.02 million tons of phosphate rock was produced, up from 808,000 in 1996. Output of iron ore and concentrate was 2.5 million tons in 2000, down from 3 million tons in 1999. Development of an iron ore mine and steel plant near Aswan ceased in 2000 when the government charged the promoters with misappropriating public funds. Higher-quality deposits were being exploited in the Western Desert. Gold and copper deposits were not of sufficient grade to justify profitable extraction.