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Despite the variety of mineral deposits and the potential of copper production, the contribution of mining to GDP was negligible, accounting for only US$2.5 million in 1985, down from a 1982 peak of US$4.1 million (both figures at 1970 market prices). The production was restricted to the extraction of limestone, clays, and sea salt. A state company, Cemento Bayano, produced limestone and clay, and operated a cement plant with an annual capacity of 330,000 tons.

In the 1970s, several copper deposits were discovered. The largest was Cerro Colorado, in Chiriquí, which if developed would be one of the largest copper mines in the world. Commercial development of the Cerro Colorado project was in the hands of the state-owned Corporación de Desarrollo Minero Cerro Colorado, which had a 51-percent stake in the operation, and of Río Tinto-Zinc, with 49 percent. In the 1970s, ore reserves at Cerro Colorado were estimated at nearly 1.4 billion tons (0.78 copper content). In the late 1970s, the cost of developing the mines was estimated at US$l.5 billion, nearly equal to total GDP at that time. Commercial exploitation was postponed because of low copper prices on the world market but could be undertaken if copper prices rose substantially.

Data as of December 1987