Belgium is a wealthy and independent country located in Western Europe, with a total population of 11.7 million as of 2020.
Bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands. Belgium covers a total area of 30,528 km2 and has a temperate climate.
The country has a total area of approximately 11,787 square miles (30,528 km2) found in between five European countries.
Belgium has been identified to be one of the most peaceful, and it is listed among other high-income nations in Europe the country is divided into three major regions.
The northwestern region is made up of coastal plains, the central region consists of plateaus and the Southeast region has mainly hills and uplands.
Belgium’s key natural resources include industrial and construction materials and also resources for producing energy such as limestone, cement, silica sand, fertile land, coal, carbonates, limestone, black marble, fir trees, diamonds, zinc, lead, iron, and dolomite.
Top 10 Natural Resources in Belgium
Deep in the earth’s crust, millions of years ago Diamonds were formed. Intense pressure and extreme heat crystallized carbon atoms into formidable tetrahedral bonds that could not be broken, creating one of the hardest substances known to man which is Diamond.
After being formed diamonds lie deep in the earth’s crust for years, before finding their way to the earth’s surface through kimberlite pipes.
Belgium is a leading trader of diamonds. In 2010, a turnover of $41.9 billion was achieved from Belgium’s rough and polished trade.
The country’s export of polished diamonds increased by 7.1% by volume to 7.79 million carats and the value of polished diamonds increased by 28.6% to $11.1 billion in 20102, compared with that of 2009.
Uses of Diamond
Here are some common uses of Diamonds.
- Diamonds have been used as exquisite art of beautiful pendants, necklaces, engagement rings, and earrings all turn out to be priceless jewelry when made from diamonds.
- Nano-diamonds are attached to chemotherapy drugs which are released into the body when cancer cells pump out chemotherapy drugs.
- They are used for bio-imaging Due to the reflective attractiveness of nano-diamonds.
- Diamonds are also used to make expensive beauty products, for example, diamond-flecked spray.
- Beauty diamond treatment products are used to get rid of wrinkles.
- It serves as a cutting tool due to its remarkable strength
- Diamond-bonded polishing pads are used in the construction, road-making, and machine-making industries.
- Diamonds are also attached to core drilling bits and used for drilling in factories, building and construction, and engineering works.
- Nano-diamonds or diamond nano-particles are so small, making them ideal for use as bio labels with potentially low toxicity.
- Synthetic diamonds can be used to produce energy.
- They are used in the production of vehicle parts which makes them integral parts of car manufacturing
- Small pieces of diamonds are used for cutting glasses. They are hard and can slice through glass effortlessly.
- They are used during quarrying because of their extreme handiness in dealing with stubborn rocks.
- They can be used in various electronic applications because of their high level of thermal conductivity.
2. Fertile Land
Soil fertility is one of the most important soil characteristics for crop growth. Crops require nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients at the right levels to grow properly and yield well.
Fertile soils retain moderate to high levels of the nutrients needed for plant growth and good yield.
About 26% of the land in Belgium is used for farming activities as a result of its abundant fertile land, particularly in the Central region. Belgium is a major producer of agricultural items such as dairy products, poultry, fruits, vegetables, barley, potatoes, tobacco, and grains.
Due to the country’s favorable temperate climate which is good for farming activities is always on the increase, and most farmers move into large-scale farming.
However, to produce large quantities of farm produce, Belgium applies highly advanced farming techniques. In the past three decades, Belgium’s agricultural output has immensely increased with the adoption of modern farming methods.
The agricultural sector in Belgium is important to the economy as products grown in Belgium are locally consumed and also exported to neighboring European nations. Additionally, the industry employs approximately 2% of the nation’s population.
Uses of Fertile Land
- The main function provided by fertile soil is the provision of food
- A fertile soil also provides essential nutrients for plant growth, producing healthy food with all the necessary nutrients needed for human health.
Belgium has rich coal deposits. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Belgium had a thriving coal mining industry. The main mining sites in Belgium are situated in the South Eastern part of the country.
Coal mining began in the early 19th century and was carried out for many decades. In the 19th century, coal was an important commodity that powered major industries in the country.
However, due to the bad weather effects associated with coal production, Belgium abandoned coal mining in 2016. Belgium joined six other European nations that stopped coal production in an attempt to reduce global warming.
Uses of Coal
- Coal is used for thermal power generation which further helps to produce electricity.
- Coal is used indirectly in the production of steel.
- It can be turned into a synthetic gas which is a mixture of carbon monoxide and Hydrogen.
- Coal is used as fuel in cooking serving as a source of heat
Carbonate ion is the simplest oxocarbon anion and is a salt of carbonic acid. It is a poly-atomic ion whose molecular formula is CO32-. The term “carbonate” can also refer to a carbonate ester, which is an organic compound with the carbonate group C(=O)(O-)2.
Alkali and alkaline earth metals are the main groups of elements that are used as carbonates. The carbonates of alkali metals are more stable than those of alkaline earth metals. Chemically precipitated sedimentary rock has a wide variety of carbonate minerals.
Some carbonate minerals that exist in nature are limestone, dolomite, soda ash(Na2CO3), siderite, and witherite. Belgium has wealth and a great number of carbonate deposits. The deposits are found in the northern part of the country.
Belgium exports some of its carbonates to foreign countries such as Tanzania. The Carbonates extracted from the mining sites in Belgium have many uses.
So many of the country’s industries rely on carbonates for their production process while some of the carbonates are put to use locally.
Uses of Carbonates
- Carbonates are used in industrial applications, like in the smelting of iron, as a raw material in the production of Portland cement and lime, in the composition of ceramic glazes, and more.
- Carbonate is in use in medicinal industries. Industries manufacture antacids, tablets made of base materials, etc.
- It is in use as a calcium supplement.
- Carbonate is in use in the manufacture of paints, paper, plastics, etc
- They are also used in the glass industries for manufacturing glass.
- In washing detergents, carbonates like sodium and potassium carbonate are used.
- Carbonates are also used to soften water.
Silica is an important product in industrial minerals. It is a form of sand that is found in plenty of Belgium. The world’s leading manufacturer of silica products Evonik has its main operations in Belgium.
The company plans to build a major production facility in 2019 in the Belgian city of Antwerp. The extraction of Silica in Belgium began as early as the 19th century.
In 2000, Belgium produced approximately four metric tons of Silica. The Silica produced in Belgium is exported throughout the world.
Uses of Silica
- Silica is used in diverse sectors such as in adhesives, the construction industry, dental products, and insulation materials.
- Silica is used in abrasives and polishes.
- It is used in glass manufacturing, fillers, and extenders, and silica brick manufacturing as a catalyst;
- It is used for specialty coatings, cleaners’ ceramics, electronics optics, and refractories.
One of Belgium’s famous forests is the Blue Forest situated near the nation’s capital city of Brussels. Most forests in Belgium are in protected areas. Belgium is home to large fir tree forests.
The trees mainly grow in the hilly region of Ardennes. The beautiful forests are a tourist attraction hence they contribute to the country’s tourism sector.
Trees gotten from the forest provide timber for the major wood industry in the country. Some of the timber from Belgian forests is exported to other European nations.
Uses of Forest
- Forest servers as a source of food. Food like wild fruits (date, African star apple), bush meat, and vegetables can be gotten from the forest.
- It serves as a home for wild animals such as antelopes, monkeys, lions, etc. which the hunters kill for food, income, hides, and skin.
- It is a source of internal revenue and foreign exchange
- Timbers which are raw materials for construction purposes such as building houses, bridges, and furniture making are sourced from the forest.
- Some tree roots, stems, bark, and leaves can serve medicinal purposes e.g quinine is obtained from the bark of the tree and can be used to cure malaria.
- Forest product is a major source of foreign exchange as well as providing for the major needs of people for fuel.
- Forest offers employment to hunters, forest guards, and timber dealers.
- Some forage crops are found in the forest areas used in feeding farm animals e.g. ruminants.
- The roots of forest trees help to bind the soil together and therefore reduce erosion.
- It serves as a windbreak where it is bare and prone to sheet and rill erosion.
- Forest serves as a tourist centers
- It can be set aside for recreational purposes.
- Some species of trees can return nitrogen to the soil through root decomposition or fallen leaves.
7. Lead and Zinc
Belgium has lead and zinc as some of its abundant natural resources. The country is home to the world’s biggest producer of Zinc–Nyrstar. The extraction of zinc began as early as the 14th century.
In 1946, the lead and Zinc mines were temporarily closed due to several challenges in the mining process such as de-watering, and refractory ores.
But then was revived in the subsequent years From December 2008 to September 2009, Nyrstar’s Balen smelter was under maintenance, due to the globally decreasing demand for zinc.
However, the production of zinc at the smelter resumed in full swing in the first quarter of 2010, boosting Nyrstar’s plans to increase zinc production by the end of 2010.
In the third quarter of 2018, the company produced 270,000 tons of Zinc and 55,000 tons of Lead.
Zinc and Lead
Uses of Zinc and Lead
- Zinc is used in galvanizing iron and steel against corrosion
- It is used in making brasses and alloys for die-casting.
Dolomite is a common rock-forming mineral that is rarely found in modern sedimentary environments. It is a calcium magnesium carbonate with a chemical composition of CaMg(CO3)2.
It is the primary component of the sedimentary rock known as dolostone and the metamorphic rock known as dolomitic marble.
They can be geographically extensive and hundreds to thousands of feet thick. Most rocks are rich in dolomite. Dolomite is also a common mineral in hydrothermal veins.
It is often associated with barite, fluorite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, galena, or sphalerite. In these veins, it often occurs as rhombohedral crystals which sometimes have curved faces.
Uses of Dolomite
Dolomite as a mineral has very few uses. However, dolostone has an enormous number of uses because it occurs in deposits that are large enough to mine.
- The most common use for dolostone is in the construction industry. It is crushed and sized for use as a road base material, an aggregate in concrete and asphalt, railroad ballast, rip-rap, or fill.
- Dolomite’s reaction with acid also makes it useful. It is used for acid neutralization in the chemical industry, in stream restoration projects, and as a soil conditioner.
- It can be used as an oil and gas reservoir rock. During the conversion of calcite to dolomite, a volume reduction occurs.
- Dolomite is used as a source of magnesia (MgO), a feed additive for livestock, a sintering agent and flux in metal processing, and as an ingredient in the production of glass, bricks, and ceramics.
- Dolomite serves as the host rock for many leads, zinc, and copper deposits
- Dolomite is also used as the substrate in marine (saltwater) aquariums to help buffer changes in the pH of the water.
9. Iron Ore
Iron ore is a mineral from which metallic iron can be obtained when heated in the presence of a reducing agent, such as coke. Iron ore deposits are found in sedimentary rocks, which are essentially rocks that have been formed over time from the accumulation of different sediments.
Belgium has several iron ores within its borders. Belgium was one of the big exporters of iron in Europe before the war. In the past decade, the production of Iron and steel in the country has experienced a constant increase.
This increase is attributed to the rise in demand for steel and the growing automobile sector in Belgium and other countries. As of 2017, Belgium was ranked eighth among the world’s largest steel exporters.
In that year, the country exported 5 million metric tons of steel. In 2010, Belgium saw an increase in its production of pig iron and crude steel due to increasing demand for steel and the recovery of the world steel industry.
The production of crude steel in Belgium increased by 53% and that of pig iron increased by 43.5% in 2010. Most of the iron and steel produced in Belgium is exported to more than 160 nations worldwide.
Some of the top markets for Belgian iron and steel products include France, Turkey, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
The resource is majorly used in the country’s steel industry which employs a large number of people in the country. Just the fact that 98% of the iron ore mined today is used for steel production
Use of Iron Ore
- The major use of steel includes the construction sector, motor vehicle industry, and manufacture of machinery, for the manufacturing of staples, cars, steel beams used in the construction of buildings, etc.
Tin is found principally in the ore Cassiterite (tin(IV) oxide). It is mainly found in the ‘tin belt’. It is obtained commercially by reducing the ore with coal in a furnace. Tin though found in Belgium but not in enormous quantities.
Uses of Tin
- Tin is to make bronze, which is an alloy of tin and copper.
- It is used to coat other metals to prevent corrosion, such as in tin cans, which are made of tin-coated steel. It is widely used in the manufacture of food containers made of steel
- It also has applications in the electrodes of batteries such as in Li-ion batteries.
- Tin alloy is used for superconducting magnets.
- Tin salts sprayed onto glass are used to produce electrically conductive coatings.
- Some tin compounds have been used as anti-fouling paint for ships and boats, to prevent barnacles.
- It is used in the soldering of steel as it possesses high magnetic strengths and lower melting points
- It is used as a reducing as well as a dyeing agent for glass, ceramics, and sensors
- In dental applications, it is employed in some products in the form of stannous chloride (SnCl2)
List of all the Natural Resources found in Belgium
Listed below are the Natural Resources found in Belgium
- Silica Sand
- Fertile land
- Black Marble
- Fir trees
Belgium has very few natural resources which share approximately three-quarters of its trade with other EU countries and the country has benefited a lot from its ties with Germany.
In 2011, the country saw an improvement in its budget deficit but its public debt was almost 100% of its GDP. Belgium’s GDP as of 2011 was $418.6 billion.
In recent years, mining has been playing a less significant role in Belgium’s economy, and in 2010 mining in Belgium was carried out only for industrial minerals.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.