The Urals are extremely rich in mineral resources, with variations on the eastern and western slopes according to geologic structure. Ore deposits, for example, notably magnetite, predominate on the eastern slope, where contact (the surface where two different rock types join) deposits are found, as at Vysokogorsk and Mount Blagodat, as well as magmatic deposits (formed from liquid rock), as at Kachkanar.
Some of the ore deposits, such as the magnetite ores at Magnitogorsk, are exhausted or nearly depleted. Sedimentary deposits are of less importance. Some ores contain alloying metals-vanadium, a gray-white resistant element, and titanium-as impurities. The largest copper ore deposits are at Gay and Sibay, and nickel ores are found at Ufaley. There are also large deposits of bauxite, chromite, gold, and platinum.
Among the non-metallic mineral resources of the eastern slope are asbestos, talc, fireclay, and abrasives. Gems and semiprecious stones have long been known: they include amethyst, topaz, and emerald. Among the western deposits are beds of potassium salts on the upper Kama River and petroleum and natural gas deposits in the Ishimbay and Krasnokamsk areas. Bituminous coal and lignite are mined on both slopes. The largest deposit is the Pechora bituminous coalfield in the north.
The vast forests of the Urals are also of great economic importance: not only do they yield valuable wood, but they also regulate the flow of the rivers and shelter many of the valuable fur animals. Agriculture is significant mainly in the eastern steppe region of the Southern Urals. Much of the land there has been ploughed for cultivation, and in large areas wheat, buckwheat, millet, potatoes, and vegetables are grown.
Because of its wealth of mineral resources, the leading industries in the Urals are mining, metallurgy, machine building, and chemicals. Of national importance are the metallurgical plants at Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk, and Nizhny Tagil; chemical plants at Perm, Ufa, and Orenburg; and large-scale engineering at Yekaterinburg.