China is gathering pace in opening its mineral sector to foreign investment, a top official said on Friday.
"Some pilot minerals have been recently designated for opening up and we are in the process of conducting surveys and evaluating their potential," said Wang Min, vice-minister of land and resources.
Those pilot minerals, including metals in Yunnan Province and in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, will be open to public bidding a year later, according to Wang.
Wang added that due to high risks in oil and natural gas exploration, foreign investment is rare in those fields. But the country's top three oil and gas giants are also cooperating with foreign businesses in exploiting some specific projects.
Wang made the remarks on the sidelines of the ongoing 17th National Congress of the CPC.
China has been preparing to open its minerals sector to foreign investment since 2005, but no breakthroughs have been made so far as the country's mineral market is undergoing an overhaul to ensure a level playing field for firms from both home and abroad, according to Wang.
But he said that the country has made major progress in its oil and gas exploration in recent years and further advances continue to be made.
The country has so far proved up nine big gas fields with reserves of above 100 million tons each, and five big gas fields with reserves of above 100 billion cubic meters each, according to Wang.
The discovery of Jidong Nanpu Oilfield in the Bohai Bay, boasting proven reserves of more than 1 billion tons, or about 7.35 billion barrels, was announced in May.
It was the largest-ever discovery in the country in the past four decades.
Wang said that the outlook for oil and gas output has remains quite optimistic, adding that there should be a number of oil fields like Nanpu.
But he declined to reveal more information in order not to affect the stock market performance of listed oil companies.
According to Wang, China is expecting an average annual increase of about 900 million tons of oil and 450 billion cubic meters of natural gas in its newly added proven reserve amount before 2020.
"That figure may be conservative too," Wang said, adding that more discoveries will be made.
Official estimates made last month said that the country may have 65 billion tons of oil reserves and around 25 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
China is also expecting an annual output of 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 200 million tons of oil in 2010, while the figure is set to rise to 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 220 million tons of oil in 2020.
"By 2030, the market will be equally divided between oil and gas," said Wang.
Wang also mentioned that China's oil and gas pipelines and the transportation facility need further updating in order to better transport those energy products.
The nation has so far built over 80,000 km of oil and gas pipelines, ranking sixth in the world, according to figures from the China Petroleum Pipeline Scientific Research Institute.