The mineral sector remained one of the chief contributors to the country's economic development. Along with natural gas and uranium, in which Uzbekistan was a world leader, and crude oil, in which it was self-sufficient, the country was significant to world mineral markets as a gold producer—it has, at times, been a world leader. Gold was the second-leading export commodity in 1998, providing 9.6% of export earnings; mineral fertilizers and ferrous metals ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, among export commodities. Production of fertilizers was an important part of the domestic chemical industry, as fertilizers were used for the production of cotton. Uzbekistan's fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-leading industries in 2002 were, respectively, metallurgy, natural gas, and chemicals manufacture.
Uzbekistan produced 62,276 kg of gold in 2000, and 80,000 in 1998. Uzbekistan also mined copper (91,800 tons in 2000), molybdenum, silver, and tungsten. Copper, molybdenum, and lead-zinc were mined at the Almalyk mining and metallurgical complex, Uzbekistan's major nonferrous-metals-producing enterprise, northeast of Tashkent; the complex had the capacity to mine and process 25 million tons per year of ore. No bismuth, cadmium, lead, palladium, tin, or zinc was mined in 1997–2000; it appeared that mining operations have been curtailed sharply or have ceased. Control of one of the main lead-mining deposits, Altyn-Topkan, in the Kurama mountain range, was transferred to Tajikistan in 1999. Uzbekistan also produced cement, kaolin clays (5.3 million tons in 2000, with a total capacity to produce 8 million tons per year), feldspar, graphite, iodine, mineral fertilizer, nitrogen, phosphate rock, and sulfur. No fluorspar was produced in 1999 and 2000; total production capacity was 150,000 tons per year. Uzbekistan also manufactured copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, silver, steel, tungsten, and zinc metals.
Uzbekistan's explored resources of gold were 5,300 tons; the main reserves, amounting to 3,200 tons, were in the central Kyzylkum region, containing the Muruntau deposit (2,230 tons), the largest gold deposit in Eurasia and among the largest in the world; Muruntau's milling operation, near Zarafshan, processed more than 22 million tons per year of ore. Zeravshan—a 50–50 joint venture of an Uzbeck government conglomerate and Newmont Corp., of the US, the leading foreign investor in Uzbekistan's gold industry—produced 15.4 tons in 2000—from gold-bearing tailings from the Muruntau operation—down from 16.7 in 1999. The drop was a result of lower gold content in the material received by the plant.