Natural resources in Ukraine and their future

5.02.2015 Władysław Sokołowski

Natural resources in Ukraine, often said to be unique for their variety, size and potential for exploration, can be divided into three groups: energy resources, metal ores and nonmetallic. The so called “mineral resources base” was in 90% built in the USSR based on the existing research methodology. The rest was built in 1991-2013 as a result of initiatives of private investors. The available information on natural resources in Ukraine vary. The reason for that is that part of the base (geological surveys, maps, catalogues) is stored in Russian centers. Leaving aside the issue of property rights for research results, it is worth underlining that Ukraine has more than 20 000 motherlodes and approximately 120 kinds of mines, of which 8,172 motherloads and 94 mines are industrial ones. 2,868 motherloads are being exploited by 2,000 mining companies.

Ukraine’s main natural resources include iron ore, coal, manganese ore, natural gas, petroleum, sulfur, graphite, titanium ore, magnesium, uranium, chromium, nickel, aluminum, copper, zinc, lead, rare earth metals, potassium, rock salt and kaolinite. One extremely important resource of Ukraine is its fertile soil composed of chernozems (40 % of the world total resources), as well as mineral water and others. The iron ore deposits are concentrated in the area of ​​the Kriviy Rig or Crooked Horn (Dnipropetrovsk and partially Kirovograd districts, with 300 deposits and proven reserves of 18 billion tons), Kerch (on the Crimean peninsula, with about 1.8 billion tons of reserves), Kremenchuk (in the Poltava district, with reserves of about 4.5 billion tonnes) and in the Bilozerka region (in Zaporizhia district, with reserves of 3.5 billion tons). Manganese ore is located in Nikov basin (in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia districts, with stocks over 2 billion tons ) and are among the largest in the world. Titanium ore is located in Zhytomyr and Dnipropetrovsk districts, uranium – in the districts of Kirovograd and Dnipropetrovsk, rich deposits of rare cinnabar (mercuric sulfide) – in the Donetsk basin, as well as Transcarpathia nickel ore – in the Kirovograd district, and finally aluminum – in the Dnipropetrovsk district. Gold can be found in Naddnipriya, Subasovia, Donbas and Transcarpathia.

In terms of the size of the explored coal resources (over 54 billion tonnes), Ukraine occupies the second place in Europe and seventh in the world. The largest amount of high-energy coal and coking coal are in Donets Basin (Donbas), but given the deteriorating conditions of exploitation, operation is transferred into the region of the Western Donbas (Dnipropetrovsk Oblast). Certain quantities of lower quality carbon are also in the Lvov-Volyn Basin. Brown coal deposits are found in Dnieper Basin (Zhytomyr Oblast, Cherkasy Oblast, Kirovohrad Oblast, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast), where the opencast mining is carried out.

Ukraine has more than 300 fields of gas and oil located in four regions: in the west, east, and south. Main fields are in the Dnieper-Donetsk region and in Chernihiv Oblast, Poltava Oblast and Kharkiv Oblast. In the Carpathian region deposits are exploited in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. Moreover, it is anticipated that new deposits will be put into use in Volhynian-Podolian region. In the region of Black See and Crimea there are deposits of gas (Crimea) and oil (Kerch Peninsula and the south part of Odessa Oblast).

Ukraine’s state energy resources are assessed at 2,3 billion tonnes of equivalent fuel, of which – an industrial stocks – 1,4 billion tonnes [4]. Particularly promising deposits are located on the coast and on the shelf of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov – they are estimated at 1.9 billion tonnes of equivalent fuel. Reserves of natural gas in Ukraine are as high as 1094 billion cubic meters, and its resources – 4292 billion cubic meters; oil stocks – 137 million tonnes, its resources – 705 million tons; associated gas reserves – 69 million tons, its resources – 336 million tons.

The waters of the Black Sea and Azov Sea hide 48 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves while its resources go up to 1751 billion cubic meters; oil stocks – 3 million tons, yet its resources – 156 million tons; associated gas reserves – 1 million tons, yet its resources – 186 million tons[5].

High expectations rose together with the recently launched shale gas exploration in two Ukrainian regions. Moreover, as a result of geological research in the area of the Crimean peninsula in the years 1988-1989 and 2002-2006, a rich and conveniently located deposits of gas hydrate were discovered. Their resources are estimated on at least 100 trillion cubic meters of gas[6] (more on this page).

Ukraine’s natural resources are strategically important. First of all, they are needed for economic development in fields such as mining, the metallurgical sector, mechanical engineering, aerospace, shipbuilding as well as in the petroleum and energy industry. Secondly, they are a significant source of export income, even if, on the opposite, they interrupt economic growth as effect of the “curse of natural resources“. In both cases, economic crisis and transformation, privatization, abused labor and dysfunctional authorities. Thirdly, Ukraine’s natural sources can ensure to increase the country’s independence of external energy suppliers (especially considering natural gas), what is equally important to guarantee national security. The access to existing and potential energy sources in Ukraine is the main reason for Russia’s policy of confrontation towards its South-Western neighbor and resulted in annexing of the Crimean Peninsula to Russian Federation. Not only the increase of gas production in Ukraine, but in particular, the possibility to manage gas fields and in the future gas hydrates in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, that may enable the Ukraine to become a demanded gas exporter in the world, has led to the current crisis between Russia and the Ukraine.



[2] Ibidem.


[4] (2014.04.30)

[5] Ibidem.