Uzbekistan lies on several geological fault lines. Its proximity to the Tian Shan and Pamir-Alay ranges, the Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts, and the Kazakh steppe has given the country rich and diverse geological resources, but also made il prone to earthquakes. Uzbekistan's mineral wealth was first comprehensively surveyed during the Soviet period. The country is known to have significant deposits of precious metals and rare and ferrous metals (see opposite), as well as coal and hydrocarbons, construction materials and radioactive raw materials. Of more than 3,000 large (and potentially commercially viable) deposits discovered prior to 2007, less than half have been explored.
The down-side of Uzbekistan's geology is the constant threat of earthquakes, many of which emanate from the densely populated Fergana Valley. Although the 7.5-niagnitude 1966 Tashkent earthquake is the best known, it is by no means an isolated incident. A 6.1-magnitude quake was recorded on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border in July 2011 and killed 13 people. Smaller quakes (4.0-5.0 on the Richter scale) hit parts of the country on an almost monthly basis.