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Foreign players to help in mining reform
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-17 10:10

China will emphasize development of domestic mining resources while taking advantage of overseas suppliers, a senior official said yesterday.

There is a huge demand for minerals in the country, but the average per capita consumption is far less than the world average, Vice-Minister of Land and Resources Wang Ming said at the China Mining International Conference, which opened in Beijing yesterday.

According to statistics from China Mining Association, the average consumption of standard coal was 1,011 kilograms per person in 2000. The world average is double that and average Americans consume 10 times that much.

"Though the supplies of oil and some other minerals are still dependent on imports, energy consumption is still mainly coal and the rate of dependency on imports will not exceed 5 per cent," he said.

Describing the nation's mineral and energy development as "very promising," Wang said the improvement coal mining technology and the expanding utilization of natural gas will help alleviate the energy shortages.

Progress in oil exploitation and new findings in areas offshore and in western China will increase mineral resources, he added.

Statistics from the Ministry of Land and Resources show that 171 kinds of minerals have been discovered in the country. Deposits of 158 of those have been confirmed.

In recent years, many international mining companies have invested in the mining sector in China.

"While encouraging foreign businesses to participate in the development of the mining sector in China, we also encourage Chinese mining enterprises to go overseas to work with the international mining industry," Wang said.

A total of 108 exploration licences and 332 mining licences were issued to foreign companies in 2003, representing a total investment of 1.45 billion yuan (US$ 175 million). Most focused on offshore oil, coal bed gas, gold, lead and bentomite.

Meanwhile, some overseas investment projects have been organized and a management and co-ordination mechanism for overseas investment was set up in the 1990s.

While intensifying its efforts to explore mineral resources moderately, China also highlights resource conservation and environmental protection, Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan said at the conference yesterday.

"The nation will step up its efforts to improve its mining market to establish a multiple, stable, economical and secure supply of mineral resources and ensure the supply of energy and major raw materials," Zeng said.

He emphasized the importance of international co-operation, saying the government will offer overseas investors a steady, fair and transparent legal and policy environment.

"We will continue to strengthen partnerships with our overseas counterparts and promote the development of the mining industry," Zeng said.

With the growth of economic construction and the process of urbanization, the demand for mineral resources is growing.

Experts say the nation's mining industry may be driven to grow by the contradiction between supply and demand.

China's mining industry should use a "two-way development strategy," said Zhu Xun, chairman of China Mining Association. "Equal attention should be given to both exploitation and economization," Zhu said.

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