In terms of volume, the most exploited commodities worldwide are coal, iron ore, bauxite, and potash. China and the United States are the largest coal producing countries. China is also the third-largest producer of iron ore. Thus, China is becoming the top mining country for many commodities, especially for the highly demanded rare earths, of which China produced over 78 percent of the global production in 2017. Additionally, China is the world’s leading country in the mine production of gold.
The industry’s leading companies based on market capitalization are Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, followed by Glencore of the UK. As of June 2018, BHP Billiton had a market capitalization of 132.3 billion U.S. dollars. Measured by revenue, the top company active in mining worldwide is Anglo-Swiss Glencore, generating some 205 billion U.S. dollars in 2017. However, it has to be taken into consideration that a large share of Glencore’s revenues come from commodity trading. In 2018, five of the world's ten leading mining companies based on revenue were based in the UK.
The mining and metals sector has been very vibrant in terms of mergers and acquisitions over the last few years. In 2010, a record high of 1,123 deals worldwide was reported, a number which stood at only 392 about ten years earlier. In 2017, some 448 deals worth around 51 billion U.S. dollars were completed. In terms of value, the major commodities targeted by these transactions included gold, coal, and lead-zinc.
In the United States, mining has always played an important role. Its relevance increases all the more whenever mining includes the extraction of oil and gas, and support activities for mining, as some sources do. The total U.S. mining gross output in 2017 amounted to 488 billion U.S. dollars, a notable decrease from the gross output in the previous year. In the same year, the whole sector employed around 621 thousand people.