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Public can now access geological information
Starting from July 1, 2002, individuals as well as both domestic and foreign enterprises will have free access to the geological information that the country has collected at the cost of over 100 billion yuan (US$12.1 billion).
All such data, with the exception of materials concerning the national economy and commercial secrets, will be open to public scrutiny. According to a new regulation, which becomes effective Monday, parties seeking geological information require only an appropriate identity card or official business licence.
This move inaugurates a period of fair competition in the development of the country's rich mineral resources, said Ye Dongsong, vice-minister of land and resources.
Most of these materials used to be strictly controlled by the country's resource authorities and were out of the reach of individuals and foreign investors.
It has long been a complaint of foreign enterprises seeking to invest in China's mining industry that the inaccessibility of such information constituted an "insurmountable" obstacle.
This has affected the opening up of the country's mining industry, which desperately needs foreign financial and technical input, said Ye.
The data is also essential for developers in many other fields, such as the construction of urban infrastructure facilities and the building of water reservoir projects.
Ye's ministry made the change to bring China in line with the rest of the world. He said the regulation is the first legal reform in land and resource management in response to the requirements set for the country's entry into the World Trade Organization.
But it was not easy to change the decades-old system of collecting and managing its valuable geological materials, which was in the hands of various departments, giving them access to geological materials useful for their respective purposes, instead of being under the control of the Ministry of Land and Resources alone.
Although many provincial regions have established their own land and resource archives to collect geological materials while providing related information services, some of the local officials involved admit it used to take one to two years to get hold of the geological materials needed.
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