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Yugoslavia (former) Energy and Mineral Resources
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Energy policy in the late 1980s was aimed at reducing dependence on foreign sources and utilizing domestic power resources more fully. For conventional power generation, the Yugoslav power industries began replacing heavy oil with coal in thermoelectric generators and relying more heavily on hydroelectric stations. Development of nuclear power generation was limited by public resistance (especially after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986) and by lack of domestic technology and nuclear fuel.

    The southern portions of Yugoslavia were richer in lignite and hydroelectric potential, while the more prosperous northern areas produced all the country's crude petroleum and one-third of total electrical power. Yugoslavia has always had an overall shortage of energy resources: natural gas and oil reserves were meager, low-caloric lignite was by far the predominant type of coal, and other fuel deposits remained unexploited because of insufficient funding for exploration and equipment. In 1990, because of poor funding support and conflicting regional interests, Yugoslavia still lacked a complete nationwide electric transmission grid. Industry regularly experienced power shortages caused by weaknesses in the transmission system and lack of generating capacity. Periodic emergency measures to restrict energy consumption included limits on use of private cars and stricter speed limits. In the late 1980s, the Croatian power industry was near bankruptcy, and the Yugoslav oil industry faced collapse.

    In 1989 Yugoslav wells supplied only 26 percent of domestic raw petroleum requirements; the main foreign suppliers were the Soviet Union, Iraq, and Libya. Significant amounts of domestic petroleum and natural gas came only from wells in the sedimentary rock of the Pannonian Basin. Lack of proper equipment and up-to- date technology limited exploration of several large deposits believed to exist in that area. In 1968 extensive natural gas prospecting and some oil prospecting began in the Adriatic Sea, assisted by heavy foreign investment. In 1988 Southern Adriatic I near Ulcinj (Montenegro) became the first offshore oil well to go into operation with support from a domestic interrepublican investment group. Despite declining foreign participation and lower international oil prices, Adriatic exploration continued in 1990 because of Yugoslavia's strong need to improve the balance of domestic versus imported fuel supply. The Adria pipeline was the major supply line of petroleum from the Adriatic entry port at Krk Island to industries and refineries in the interior of the country.

    Production of natural gas increased significantly in the 1980s with the opening of the Molve field (Croatia) in 1985 and three wells in the northern Adriatic in 1989. Molve increased national production by one-third, yielding one billion cubic meters annually. Yugoslavia remained heavily dependent on the Soviet Union for natural gas in 1990, although Adriatic exploration continued. In 1985 construction began on a pipeline connecting the Soviet Union with Macedonia; in 1986 the Yugoslav natural gas distribution system included about 2,880 kilometers of pipeline.

    Coal was the most important fuel for Yugoslav energy generation in the late twentieth century; 75 percent of domestic coal went to thermoelectric plants. Total coal reserves were estimated at 22 billion tons in 1985, and total production remained around 70 million tons yearly in the late 1980s. In 1990 hard coal production was less than in the 1960s, but production of lower-quality brown coal and lignite (soft coal), remained steady through the 1980s. The center of the lignite industry was the Tito Mines complex at Tuzla, in the Pannonian Basin. Yugoslavia's only deposits of high-grade bituminous coal were in relatively small reserves in Istria (northwest Croatia), eastern Serbia, and Bosnia. Potential new reserves had been located but not yet evaluated in 1990.

    In spite of the importance of coal to the Yugoslav economy, inefficiency in managing power resources led to significant waste in the coal industry. Shaft mine output increased throughout the 1980s, but at the expense of decreased productivity rates, wasted resources, abnormal wear on equipment, and unusually high production costs. Surface mining of Yugoslavia's lignite reserves also was mismanaged. Although Kosovo contained the largest lignite field in Europe and 50 percent of Yugoslavia's coal reserves, inefficiencies in energy planning limited Kosovo's contribution to 15 percent of the country's actual coal supply in 1988.

    The potential for developing hydroelectric power in Yugoslavia in the 1980s was greater than for development of fossil fuels. From 1956 through the 1980s, production of electricity from hydroelectric sources exceeded that from all other sources. Despite heavy investment in this area, however, only an estimated 20 percent of Yugoslavia's hydroelectric potential was in use in 1990. Many obstacles hindered access to resources in mountainous watersheds of the Drina, Bosna, and Neretva rivers (see fig. 6). Costs were very high for building power stations in difficult terrain and for transmitting power across hundreds of miles of mountains to consumers. In the 1980s, the largest provider of hydroelectric power to Yugoslavia was the joint Yugoslav-Romanian Iron Gate Project in the Djerdap Gorge on the Danube River.

    Krsko, Yugoslavia's first nuclear power station, was designed by the United States firm Westinghouse; it began transmitting power from its site in eastern Slovenia in 1982. In 1987 Krsko produced about 5 percent of Yugoslav domestic electric power. After its construction, however, further nuclear development became problematic. Although Yugoslav uranium deposits in eastern Serbia were believed sufficient to fuel additional nuclear reactors, policymakers feared the results of Yugoslav dependence on foreign nuclear fuel suppliers. In 1990 the Krsko plant still imported all its nuclear fuel from the United States. At the other end of the generation process, Yugoslavia had no good sites for nuclear waste disposal.

    In 1986 Yugoslavia began looking for foreign credits to build four new nuclear plants. However, environmental and political factors and the prospects of increasing the foreign debt made this an unpopular program by the late 1980s. Policymakers feared that new plants would divide the country into western and eastern nuclear spheres, exacerbating Serbian-Slovenian economic and political disputes. The Krsko plant and a projected plant in Prevlaka were in western Yugoslavia and financed by Western partners; three other projected plants in Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro were to be financed by the Soviet Union. Hot interregional disputes postponed building of these plants into the 1990s and weakened national resolve to continue a program of nuclear power generation.

    Yugoslavia was endowed with a wide variety of ferrous and non-ferrous ores. About 80 percent of the country's iron ore reserves were located at Vares and Ljubija in Bosnia and Hercegovina, with other major deposits in Slovenia and Macedonia. A poor transportation network and lack of suitable fuels near the highest grade deposits hindered exploitation of those ores. Yugoslavia could probably have been self-supporting in iron ore if resources were fully exploited, but in 1990 the country was still a net importer of iron ore, scrap, and semifinished steel.

    Yugoslavia also was rich in several nonferrous metals. Bosnia-Hercegovina produced 56 percent of the country's bauxite, while Kosovo's Trepca Combine, the largest lead-and-zinc center in the country, enabled that province to produce 47 percent of Yugoslavia's lead and zinc ores. Kosovo also supplied a substantial part of Yugoslav chrome. The Bor and Majdanpek areas of Serbia were the only copper sources in the country, and Serbia also provided most of Yugoslavia's antimony. Macedonia contributed chrome, manganese, and uranium, and the most productive mercury mines in Europe were located at Idrija in the Julian Alps of Slovenia.

    Many of Yugoslavia's mineral deposits were in inaccessible areas remote from sources of energy. Massive capital investments were needed for the roads and communications necessary to reach many untapped reserves. On the other hand, Yugoslav industry often lacked the capacity to absorb available mineral resources, and much raw and semifinished material was exported in return for manufactured goods.

    Data as of December 1990

    NOTE: The information regarding Yugoslavia (former) on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Yugoslavia (former) Energy and Mineral Resources information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Yugoslavia (former) Energy and Mineral Resources should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 27-Mar-05
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