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More solid minerals found
(China Daily by Tang Min)
Updated: 2004-02-26 00:16

New findings have further boosted China's rock-solid mineral reserves, which are believed to be one solid pillar for the country's surging economic development, officials said Wednesday.

A five-year national survey, which cost 4.4 billion yuan (US$531.4 million), found 421 promising potential production sites, Shou Jiahua, vice-minister of land and resources, announced during a press conference Wednesday.

More than 15,000 geological professionals participated in the survey.

Shou said the new findings lay a foundation to relieve the country's "thirst" for solid minerals.

Especially exciting is the discovery of new copper mines reporting total reserves of more than 12 million tons in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Southwest China's Yunnan Province and Tibet, said Shou.

Copper shortages have forced the country to spend more than US$3 billion each year during the past several years to import two thirds of the country's annual copper consumption amount.

Moreover, the survey found 38 sedimentary basins where crude oil and natural gas may be found.

The country's total reserves of crude oil and natural gas could amount to more than 40 billion tons in oil equivalent.

But for Shao Juenian, director of the ministry's Department of Mineral Resource Reserves, the joy of finding such extensive reserves could be dampened if the discoveries are not followed by more work, and soon.

More detailed information about the new mines, such as the specific reserves, is needed to determine if commercial exploitation is possible, he said.

Statistics show only a small part of China's rich solid mineral resources, 18.9 per cent, can be further developed.

"While the existence of a larger part of these mineral resources has been theoretically proven, its economic potential is still beyond our knowledge," he said.

As for the 148 types of solid minerals that can be found in the country, the specific information available is even less. To date, total reserves of only 10.63 per cent of them have been quantified.

However, Shao dismissed pessimism, saying the situation provides opportunity and the central government is steadily stepping up its efforts in the regard.

"This national survey is a good example," he said.

Shao also said modern technology can speed up surveys and resource exploitation.

Therefore, Shao said he is on solid ground to refute some reports that the country expects to import as much as 500 million tons of crude oil by the year 2020.

"Our estimate of the number is roughly between 300 million tons and 400 million tons, and expect it to shrink further due to improved utilization technologies," he said.

However, China will play a bigger role in the international mineral market.

"No country can develop on its own mineral resources only," he said.

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