Mongolia's natural resources include forests, fish, and a variety of minerals. In the late 1980s, Mongolia had 15 million hectares of forests covering 9.6 percent of the nation. Major forested areas were approximately 73 percent Siberian larch, 11 percent cedar, and 6.5 percent pine. Timber stocks were estimated to be 1.3 billion cubic meters. Mongolia's northern rivers and lakes contained more than 50 native species of fish; however, this resource barely was exploited because fish is not popular among Mongolians.
The country's richest resources are minerals--coal, copper, fluorite, gold, iron ore, lead, molybdenum, oil, phosphates, tin, uranium, and wolfram. Coal deposits in the mid-1980s were located at Aduun Chuluu (reserves of 37 million tons), Baga Nuur (reserves of 1 billion tons), Nalayh (reserves of 73 million tons), Sharin Gol (reserves of 69 billion tons), and Tavan Tolgoy (reserves of 9.5 billion tons). Copper and molybdenum were found at Erdenetiyn-ovoo and at Tsagaan Subarga in Dornogovi Aymag. Fluorite deposits were located at Burentsogt in Suhbaatar Aymag, at Berh and Bor Ondor in Hentiy Aymag, and at Har-Ayrag in Dornogovi Aymag. Northern Mongolia, particularly Tov and Selenge aymags, had widespread gold deposits. These sites included Tavan Tolgoy, Erhet, and Bugant; the Yoroo Gol and the Bayan Gol; and Narantolgoy. Other gold deposits were found at Noyon Uul in Hentiy Aymag and at Altan Uul in Omnogovi Aymag. Iron ore occurred at Bayan Gol, at Bayan Uul in Hovsgol Aymag, at Bayasgalant in Dundgovi Aymag, and at Yoroo in Selenge Aymag. Lead deposits were found at Jargalthaan in Hentiy Aymag and at Bordzongiyn Govi in Omnogovi Aymag. A major limestone deposit was discovered at Hotol in Bulgan Aymag. Mongolia exploited oil deposits at Dzuunbayan and Tsagaan Els in Dornogovi Aymag, and at Tamsagbulag in Dornod Aymag in the 1950s and the 1960s. Reports on the exploitation of oil deposits ceased after 1968. Phosphates were found at Urandosh in Hovsgol Aymag. Prospecting teams have discovered extensive veins of potash mica running through 350 kilometers of the Altai Mountains. Tin was located at Nomgon in Omnogovi Aymag and at Yeguudzer in Suhbaatar Aymag. Wolfram deposits were exploited at Burentsogt, Chonogol, Ihhayrhan, Salaa, and Hanhohiy in Tov and Suhbaatar aymags. Uranium has been discovered in Mongolia, but there were no reports of deposits that were being tapped in the 1980s.
Mongolia has cooperated extensively with Comecon countries in surveying the country's natural resources. Joint geological prospecting teams have located more than 500 mineral deposits in Mongolia. The Erdenetiyn-ovoo copper-molybdenum deposit, for example, was discovered with Soviet and Czechoslovak assistance. The Soviet Union has been the most active of the Comecon nations in joint exploration of Mongolia's mineral resources. The Joint Mongolian-Soviet Geological Expedition has discovered previously unknown minerals, has published monographs and metallogenic maps; and has focused its surveying efforts on searching for nonferrous, rare, and precious metals, fluorite, phosphates, building materials, and coal. Geological prospecting is thus conducted to assist Mongolian economic development by extending mining industries and by exploiting new mineral deposits.