The nation is stepping up its efforts to further tap domestic mineral resources to meet the huge appetite of its blistering economic growth in the wake of soaring global resource prices.
Wang Min, vice-minister of land and resources, said the country has entered a phase of rapid mineral consumption amid its rapid industrialization.
"An insufficient supply of resources has become a major bottleneck for the country's development," he told a national geological survey conference held over the weekend in Beijing.
Wang pledged to find more than 200 new mineral bases by 2010.
According to Wang, given the goal of doubling the nation's gross domestic output by 2020, China is expected to consume 510 million tons of oil, 20 million cubic meters of natural gas, 3.7 billion tons of coal, 400 million tons of steel, 6.6 million tons of copper and 13 million tons of alumina by that year.
That means China faces a shortage of 6 billion tons of oil, 600 million cubic meters of natural gas, 3.5 billion tons of steel, 50 million tons of copper and 60 million tons of alumina over the next few years, he added.
"Given that the global mineral market is increasingly controlled by global monopolies, with prices soaring under the influence of political, military and economic factors, we will have to mainly rely on the domestic market for further demand," Wang said.
According to figures from the Ministry of Land and Resources, global investment in surveying for solid mineral resources totaled $10.5 billion last year, a year-on-year jump of 40 percent.
The country discovered more than 800 new mineral bases during the past nine years, supplying 32 million tons of copper and 769 million tons of iron ore.
But high demand in the domestic mineral market has put a strain on mineral supplies, according to Wang.
For instance, the country used up to 2.3 billion tons of coal and 420 million tons of steel in 2006, respectively accounting for 39 percent and 33 percent of total global consumption in that year.
China also consumed 3.72 million tons of copper and 8.65 million tons of alumina in 2006, accounting for 22 percent and 26 percent of total global consumption.
The ministry also pledged to deepen international cooperation in mineral surveying and exploitation.
More than 200 foreign companies have invested in mineral surveying in China, with most of their 400 projects, including surveying for oil, natural gas, coal, copper and gold mines, in the nation's vast western regions.
(China Daily, February 25, 2008)