France has significant deposits of several minerals important to industry, such as iron ore, bauxite, and uranium. France is the second largest producer of iron ore in western Europe, behind Sweden. The nation’s iron districts, centered in the Lorraine basin in the northeast, once served as a major source of employment. Most iron ore mined in France contains high levels of impurities, and domestic production has declined in recent decades as the French steel industry has turned to purer ores imported from abroad.
France also has notable deposits of coal. The coalfields of northern France remained productive into the 1950s and 1960s, but production plummeted as seams were exhausted and extraction costs climbed. By 1990 coal production ceased in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the traditional center of coal mining in France. Limited coal mining continues in central and southern France. Today France imports more coal than it produces domestically.