The mineral industry was a minor component of Gambia's economy. Clays for bricks, laterite, silica sand, cockleshell, and sand and gravel were exploited for domestic construction needs. Production of silica sand was 170,000 tons in 2001, down from 303,000 in 1997. The Gambia had significant glass and quartz sand deposits, and resources of ilmenite, rutile, tin, and zircon. The government has encouraged exploration for gold. Large deposits of ilmenite were discovered along the coast in 1953, and were exploited by UK interests from 1956 to 1959. A new mineral and mining act was being developed.