The distribution of key natural resources across the world varies significantly based on geographical, geological, and climatic factors. The availability and accessibility of these natural resources can influence a region’s economic development, environmental sustainability, and geopolitical dynamics. Read further to know more.
Everything available in our environment that can be used to satisfy our needs provided it is technologically accessible, economically feasible, and culturally acceptable can be termed as a Resource.
This encompasses the sources of highly regarded qualities like those used for business and industry, aesthetic worth, scientific curiosity, and cultural significance.
With time and the advancement of technology, an object becomes a resource.
Resources that are drawn from Nature and used without much modification are called Natural Resources. The air we breathe, the water in our rivers and lakes, the soils, and the minerals are all natural resources. Many of these resources are gifts of nature and can be used directly.
- Renewable resources are those which get renewed or replenished quickly. Some of these are unlimited and are not affected by human activities, such as solar and wind energy.
- Non-renewable resources are those which have limited stock. Once the stocks are exhausted it may take thousands of years to be renewed or replenished. The majority of resources in this category tend to be minerals such as Coal, petroleum, and natural gas is some examples.
- Water: Freshwater from rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers is essential for drinking, agriculture, industry, and hydropower generation.
- Air: While not traditionally considered a natural resource, clean air is crucial for human health, agriculture, and industrial processes.
- Soil: Fertile soil is vital for agriculture and supports the growth of crops and forests.
- Biomass: Biomass resources include plants, trees, and organic matter that can be used for energy production, such as wood, crop residues, and biofuels.
- Wind Energy: Wind is harnessed to generate electricity through wind turbines, providing a renewable energy source.
- Solar Energy: Solar panels capture energy from the sun to generate electricity and heat for various applications.
- Geothermal Energy: Geothermal resources utilize heat from the Earth’s interior for electricity generation and heating.
- Tidal and Wave Energy: These renewable resources harness the movement of tides and ocean waves to generate electricity.
- Fossil Fuels: These include coal, oil, and natural gas, which are burned for electricity generation, transportation, and industrial processes.
- Minerals and Metals: These resources encompass a wide range of elements, including iron ore, copper, gold, and rare earth metals, used in manufacturing, construction, and electronics.
- Non-Metallic Minerals: This category includes resources like limestone, gypsum, and salt, used in construction, agriculture, and industry.
- Nuclear Fuels: Uranium and thorium are used in nuclear reactors to generate electricity.
- Fossil Water: Non-renewable groundwater resources can become depleted if over-extracted.
- Fossilized Carbon: Peat, a precursor to coal, is a type of fossilized carbon used in some regions for heating and cooking.
- Phosphates: Used in agriculture for fertilizers, phosphates are sourced from phosphate rock.
- Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs): These include resources like ethane, propane, and butane, which are used as feedstocks in petrochemical industries.
- Rare Earth Elements: These are essential for various technologies, including electronics and renewable energy systems.
The distribution of natural resources depends upon several physical factors like terrain, climate, and altitude. The distribution of resources is unequal because these factors differ so much over the earth.
Distribution of Key Natural Resources
Here’s an overview of the distribution of some of the essential natural resources, including their presence in South Asia and the Indian subcontinent:
Minerals and metals
A mineral is a natural substance of organic or inorganic origin with definite chemical and physical properties.
- Iron Ore: Major iron ore reserves are found in countries like Australia, Brazil, and Russia. India is also a significant producer of iron ore.
- Bauxite: Bauxite, used in aluminum production, is abundant in countries like Guinea, Australia, and Brazil. India also has substantial bauxite reserves.
- Copper: Copper deposits are found in Chile, Peru, and the United States, among other countries. India also has copper resources.
- Gold: Major gold-producing countries include China, Russia, and Australia. India has a significant demand for gold but relatively limited domestic production.
- Diamonds: Significant diamond reserves are located in countries like Russia, Botswana, and Canada.
Based on chemical and physical properties, minerals may be grouped under two main categories metallics and non-metallics which may further be classified as follows :
The following are the metallic minerals
The principal source of iron for the global iron and steel industry is iron ore. Therefore, it is crucial for the manufacturing of steel, which is crucial for maintaining a robust industrial foundation. Steelmaking uses 98 percent of the iron ore that is mined. Around 50 countries mine iron.
The majority of the world’s total reserves of iron ore of 3,20,000 million tonnes is located in North America, Russia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa, and India.
- China – Manchuria, Sinkiang, Shandong, Si-kiang, Anshan
- Africa – Transvaal, Liberia, Morocco.
- Kazakhstan, Russia – Ural region & Magnitogorsk.
- Europe – Ruhr, Normandy, Lorraine, South Wales, South Wales.
- Australia – Koolyanobbing, Iron Duke, Iron Knob.
- North America – Great Lakes, Labrador, St, Lawrence, Nevada, Wyoming.
- South America – Carajas, Itabira, Minas Geriais.
- India: Approximately 95% of the iron ore reserves are found in the states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.
It was one of the earliest metals used by men because it often occurs in a pure state. Copper is an indispensable metal in the electrical industry for making wires, electric motors, transformers, and generators. It is malleable and ductile.
With 27% of the world’s copper production, Chile is the leading producer. Escondido and Collahuasi, two of the biggest mines in the world, are also located in the nation.
Peru, a South American nation that accounts for 10% of global output, is next after Chile.
India- Singhbhum(Jharkhand), Balaghat(Madhya Pradesh) and Jhunjhunu and Alwar(Rajasthan)
Energy Resources/Fossil Fuels
Minerals and energy resources are crucial for economic and industrial growth, which is necessary to raise people’s living standards and quality of life.
Mineral fuels like coal, petroleum and natural gas (known as fossil fuels), and nuclear energy minerals, are essential for the generation of power, required by agriculture, industry, transport, and other sectors of the economy.
- Coal: Major coal reserves are found in countries like the United States, Russia, China, and India. India has significant coal reserves, particularly in the states of Jharkhand, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh.
- Oil: The Middle East, particularly countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq, holds some of the world’s largest oil reserves. Other significant oil-producing regions include North America and Russia. India has limited oil reserves but relies heavily on oil imports.
- Natural Gas: Natural gas reserves are found in regions like Russia, Iran, Qatar, and the United States. South Asia has natural gas reserves in countries like India and Bangladesh.
Coal is one of the essential minerals which are mainly used in the generation of thermal power and smelting of iron ore. It is the most unevenly distributed mineral.
- China: Shansi, Sichuan, Fushan, Shenyang.
- USA: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah.
- Canada: Alberta, Vancouver.
- Europe: Ruhr, Cumberland, Durham, Upper Silesia.
- Africa: Transvaal, Natal.
- Australia: Brisbane, Canberra, New Castle, Ipswich.
- Russia: Moscow, Eastern Siberia, Ob-Basin, Lena-Basin.
- India: Bokaro, Jharia, Karanpur, Korba, Neyveli, Raniganj, Singreni, Singrauli, Talcher.
Crude Oil and Petroleum
Petroleum is the most efficient source of energy. All internal combustion engines depend upon it and Petrochemical industries process many of its byproducts, including fertilizer, synthetic rubber, synthetic fiber, drugs, vaseline, lubricants, wax, soap, and cosmetics.
Major Oil Fields of the World:
- North America: Canada(Athabasca, Alberta), USA(N. Louisiana, Arkansas), Mexico(Ciudad).
- South America: Brazil(Amazon Basin, Coastal Brazil), Venezuela( Aruba, Maracaibo Lake).
- Europe: North Sea, Russia( Bashkiria, Grozny, Perm).
- Africa : Algeria( Hassi, Bougie), Niger(Niger Delta), Libya( Zelten, Ras Sidar).
- Australia: Alice Spring, Bass Strait, Daly Basin.
- Asia: Brunei(Northern shore), Egypt(Sinai Peninsula), Iran(Behragan, Lali, Masjid-e-Sulaiman), Iraq(Alwand, Basra, Kirkuk,Mosul), Saudi Arabia(Abqaiq, Dhahran, Ghawar, Safania), Russia(Sakhalin, Tomsk), China( Daqing, Dakang, Shandong, Sinkiang),
Indonesia: (Jambi, Minas, Palembang).
India: Crude petroleum occurs in sedimentary rocks of the tertiary period.
- Assam: Digboi, Naharkatiya and Moran.
- Gujarat: Ankleshwar, Kalol, Mehsana, Nawagam, Kosamba, and Lunej.
- Mumbai is High off the western coast and Krishna-Godavari and Kaveri basins are on the east coast.
Also read: Oil and Gas industry in India
Petroleum deposits are also home to natural gas, which is liberated when crude oil is transported to the surface.
- Domestic and commercial fuel consumption.
- As a fuel in the power industry to produce electricity, for industrial heating, as a raw material in the chemical, petrochemical, and fertilizer industries, and for other purposes.
Its distribution is not uniform. Russia has the largest deposits of Natural gas.
Natural gas-producing centers of the World:
- North America: USA(Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Houston, Ohio), Canada(Alberta, British Columbia, Clark Lake, Edmonton), Mexico(Baja Peninsula, Cardenas, Ciudad Madero).
- South America: Venezuela(Aruba, Maracaibo Lake).
- Europe: Netherlands(North Sea, Rhine Delta), Romania( Danube Delta), UK( North Sea), Russia( Grozny, Volga-Ural region)
- Africa: Algeria(Hassi R’Mel), Libya(Sirte Basin), Nigeria(Niger Delta).
- Australia: Barrow Island, Bass Strait, Flounder, Scott Reef.
- Asia: Brunei(Bandar Seri Begawan), Iraq(Basra, Kirkuk, Mosul), Iran(Afghajari, Gachsaran, Abadan), Russia(Sakhalin)
- Indonesia: Palembang, Kalimantan.
- India: Bombay high, Krishna-Godavari Basin, Rawa(Andhra coast), Gujarat Coast, Tanot(Rajasthan),Tripura.
Nuclear Energy Resources
In recent years, nuclear energy has shown to be a reliable source. Uranium and thorium are significant minerals utilized in the production of nuclear energy.
- Australia: Australia has the world’s largest known uranium reserves, accounting for a significant portion of global uranium resources. The country’s deposits are mainly located in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
- Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan is one of the world’s leading uranium producers and possesses substantial uranium reserves, particularly in the southern regions of the country.
- Canada: Canada has significant uranium resources, with major deposits found in Saskatchewan, where uranium mining is a significant industry.
- Niger: Niger is another important uranium producer, with deposits located in the northern part of the country.
- Namibia: Namibia has significant uranium deposits in the Erongo Region, and it is a notable uranium exporter.
- India: India has substantial thorium reserves, which are a potential source of nuclear fuel for advanced thorium-based nuclear reactors. The state of Kerala is particularly rich in thorium deposits.
- Norway: Norway has significant thorium resources, primarily in the form of monazite, a mineral that contains thorium. However, commercial thorium mining is limited.
- United States: The United States also has thorium deposits, but they are not as extensive as in some other countries.
Renewable Energy Resources
- Solar Energy: Regions close to the equator, including parts of South Asia, have abundant solar energy resources. India has been actively harnessing solar energy through solar power projects.
- Wind Energy: Wind energy potential is significant in regions like the United States, China, and India. India has made substantial investments in wind energy.
- Hydropower: Electricity produced from hydropower is known as hydroelectricity or hydroelectric power (water power). In 2020, approximately 4500 TWh, or one-sixth of the world’s electricity, was generated by hydropower, surpassing both nuclear and all other renewable energy sources.
- North America: Great Lake Region, Niagara Falls, British Columbia region, the Appalachian region, North-West region of the USA, Niagara.
- Europe: Norway, Sweden, France(Central Massif and Pyrenees Alps), Russia( Dnieper Combine Scheme on Dnieper River, Kuybyshev dams on Volga River, Krasnoyarsk on Yenisei River, Kama Project on Volga River).
- Africa: Kariba Dam on the Zambezi, Owen project in Uganda, Aswan Dam in Egypt, Sennar Dam in Sudan, Kafui Dam in Zambia.
- Australia: New South Wales and Victoria.
- China: The Yangtze Kiang, Sinkiang, and Hwang Ho rivers are where the majority of China’s hydropower projects are situated. Example Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.
- India: Damodar Valley Project(Bihar & W. Bengal), Bhakra-Nangal Project(Punjab), Hirakud Project (Orissa), Nagarjuna Sagar Project(Tamil Nadu), Mettur Project(Tamil Nadu), Idukki Project(Kerala).
Wind energy is a pollution-free, inexhaustible source of energy. Through the use of turbines, wind energy’s kinetic energy is transformed into electrical energy. Trade winds, westerlies, and seasonal wind patterns like the monsoon have all been employed as energy sources.
- North America: USA( Iowa, Texas, California, Oklahoma, etc.), Canada(Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, etc.).
- South America: Brazil(Piauí), Chile(Antofagasta), Uruguay( Tacuarembó, Maldonado).
- Europe: Germany(126,000 GWh), United Kingdom(63,468GWh), Spain(54,212 GWh), France(34,100 GWh), Italy(20,200 GWh), Sweden(19,902 GWh) etc are the leading producers of wind energy.
- Africa: South Africa( Chaba, Coega, Darling, etc. wind farms), Morocco(Tarfaya Wind Farm), Egypt(West Bakr Wind Project, Ras Ghareb Wind Farm), etc.
- Australia: Wind farms of Victoria and New South Wales.
- India: Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka have favorable conditions for wind energy generation.
In 2021, solar PV generation surpassed 1000 TWh and rose by a record 179 TWh (up 22%). Of all renewable technologies, it showed the second-largest absolute generation growth in 2021, right behind wind.
In most of the world, solar PV is quickly becoming the most affordable alternative for new power generation, which is anticipated to spur investment in the years to come.
World distribution of Solar Power:
- North America: Canada – Ontario(Arnprior, Belmont), Alberta(BUR1 Burdett, Coaldale); USA – California(MaCoy,Solar star I & II), Arizona(Solana), Nevada(El Dorado).
- South America: Brazil(Usina São Gonçalo in Piauí, Pirapora solar complex in Minas Gerais), Argentina ( Cauchari in Jujuy, Altiplano I in Salta), Uruguay( La Jacinta Solar Power Project in Salto), etc.
- Europe: Germany(Doellen, Lake Hainer in Leipzig), Austria(Burgenland- Nickelsdorf solar park ), Tagus solar complex in the town of Alcantara, Spain, UK(Sutton Bridge Solar Farm).
- Africa: South Africa(De Aar, Prieska), Algeria(Adrar, Souk-Ahras), Egypt(Siwa), Kenya(Changi Tea Farm).
- Australia: Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland.
- Asia: China(Qinghai, Zhongwei, Ningxia, Xinjiang), Egypt(Aswan), UAE(Sweihan), Vietnam(Dau Tieng Solar Power Project), Saudi(Sakaka PV IPP
- India: India was the second-largest market in Asia for new solar PV capacity and third globally (13 GW of additions in 2021). It ranked fourth for total installations (60.4 GW), overtaking Germany (59.2 GW) for the first time. Bhadla Solar Park(Rajasthan), Pavagada Solar Park(Karnataka), NP Kunta and Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park(Andhra Pradesh), and Rewa Ultra Mega Solar(MP), etc are some of the solar parks in India.
Other Natural Resources
- Freshwater: The distribution of freshwater varies greatly. Some regions, like the Amazon Basin and parts of Southeast Asia, have abundant freshwater resources. In contrast, arid regions like the Middle East face significant water scarcity issues.
- Rivers: The Indian subcontinent has several major rivers, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus, which are critical for irrigation and transportation.
- Arable Land: The distribution of arable land is diverse, with countries like the United States, Russia, and China having vast areas of fertile soil. The Indian subcontinent has extensive arable land used for agriculture.
- Crops: Different crops are grown in various regions, depending on climate and soil conditions. For example, South Asia is known for rice and wheat cultivation.
- Forest Resources: Forests are found across the world, with countries like Russia, Brazil, and Canada hosting extensive forested areas. India and other South Asian countries have diverse forest ecosystems.
Natural resources play a vital role in economic development, environmental sustainability, and human well-being. The sustainable management of these resources is crucial to ensure their availability for future generations and to mitigate the environmental impacts of their extraction and use.
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Article written by: Ankit Sharma