The Ukrainian city of Dniprorudne holds a treasure beneath its surface—iron ore with an iron content exceeding 60%. For years, this high-quality resource has been a cornerstone of Ukraine’s economy, contributing significantly to its prosperity and global trade relations. However, the landscape changed dramatically in 2022 when Russian forces occupied Dniprorudne and other strategic mining regions. This article sheds light on the far-reaching consequences of Russia’s occupation on Ukraine’s natural resources, industrial output, and global competitiveness.
Ukrainian Iron Ore: A Shifting Landscape
Before the occupation, Dniprorudne mines extracted around 4.5 million tons of high-quality iron ore annually. This resource was a vital component of Ukraine’s economic vitality, generating approximately €200 million ($216 million) in revenue each year. The majority of this ore was exported to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Austria. Additionally, a significant portion was transformed into steel in the city of Zaporizhzhia and exported worldwide.
Economic Fallout and Disruption
The Russian occupation had immediate and lasting repercussions on Ukraine’s economy. Metallurgy ore exports plummeted by nearly 60% in 2022 compared to the previous year, amounting to less than $3 billion in total value. This decline is attributed in part to the occupation disrupting mining activities. Analysts from GMK Center, a Ukrainian think tank, highlight how the occupation disrupted vital mining operations and led to the seizure of assets belonging to Ukrainian, Slovak, and Czech investors.
Resource Riches and Strategic Intent
Ukraine’s natural resources extend far beyond iron ore. Experts estimate that the total value of resources in occupied Ukrainian territories surpassed $12 trillion in 2022, including deposits of coal, titanium, manganese, gold, natural gas, oil, and more. Russia’s strategic intent is evident as it seeks to gain control over these resources to secure its influence on the global stage. The occupation not only impacts Ukraine’s economic potential but also creates geopolitical tensions that undermine regional stability.
Economic Strain and Industrial Disruption
The resource shortage triggered by the occupation poses severe challenges to Ukraine’s industrial sectors. Ukrainian steel production, which was a cornerstone of the country’s economic activities, experienced a dramatic decline. Metallurgical product exports fell from almost 20 million tons in 2021 to a mere 2.5 million tons in the first half of 2023. The disruption caused by the occupation and subsequent resource shortages has severely hampered Ukraine’s industrial competitiveness.
The Geopolitical Game
Yaroslav Zhalilo, an economic analyst, suggests that Moscow’s strategic plan includes crippling Ukraine’s economy. The occupation of resource-rich territories and the destruction of key industries serve as tools to achieve this goal. Ukraine’s efforts to source coal, especially anthracite, from alternative markets due to Russian control, and the logistical challenges it faces further compound its economic woes. Russia’s intentions are clear: weaken Ukraine’s economy and portray it as a vulnerable nation dependent on Russia’s goodwill.
Looking Ahead: Geopolitics and Resources
The Russian occupation of Ukraine’s valuable resources reflects a broader pattern in Russian foreign policy. Notably, Russia’s pursuit of resources in Africa and its focus on critical minerals highlight its intentions to secure influence and power. The European Union’s strategic resource partnership with Ukraine underscores the global recognition of Ukraine’s resource-rich potential.
The Russian occupation of strategic mining regions in Ukraine underscores the broader geopolitical struggles over valuable resources. Ukraine’s economic vitality, industrial capacity, and global competitiveness have been severely impacted. As Ukraine faces challenges in sourcing vital resources, the international community observes the complex interplay between resource control, economic stability, and regional power dynamics.