China has discovered 171 varieties of minerals,
and 158 of them with proved reserves. There are 10 energy-related minerals,
including oil, natural gas, coal, uranium and geotherm; 54 metallic minerals,
including iron, manganese, copper, aluminum, lead and zinc; 91 non-metallic
minerals, including graphite, phosphorus, sulfur and sylvite; and 3 liquid
minerals, including groundwater, and mineral water. There are nearly 18,000
mineral deposits in China, including more than 7,000 big and medium-sized
The basic characteristics of China’s mineral resources are:
— The total quantity of the resources is fairly big and there is
a fairly complete variety of minerals. China has found a rather complete
variety of mineral resources, and a fair abundance of mineral resources
in total quantity. Large reserves have been verified of major minerals,
such as coal, iron, copper, aluminum, lead and zinc. The country enjoys
obvious advantages in the world in the resources of coal, rare earths,
tungsten, tin, molybdenum, antimony, titanium, gypsum, bentonite, mirabilite,
magnesite, barite, fluorspar, talc and graphite. There are abundant geothermal
and mineral water resources, and the quality of the groundwater is good
on the whole.
— The per-capita quantity of the resources is small, and there is
an imbalance between supply and demand for some of the resources. The
huge population and the low per-capita quantity of mineral resources are
a basic national condition in China. The per-capita quantity of mineral
resources held by the Chinese people is at a comparatively low level by
global standards. There are acute shortages of diamonds, platinum, chromite
— Superior mineral ores exist side by side with inferior ones. There
are both high-quality ores and those of low grade and complex constituents.
The quality is fairly high for tungsten, tin, rare earths, molybdenum,
antimony, talc, magnesite and graphite, while in the case of iron, manganese,
aluminum, copper and phosphorus there is an excess of low-grade ores,
paragenous and associated ores and those refractory for dressing and smelting.
— The resources with a low degree of geological control account
for a greater proportion of the verified reserves of the mineral resources.
In the structure of the verified reserves of the resources, there are
more resources, but less reserves or basic reserves; more resource reserves
with poor economic workability or with uncertain economic significance,
but less resource reserves with ideal economic workability; more controlled
and deduced resource reserves, and less verified resource reserves.
— The conditions for mineralization are good, and there are good
prospects for finding more mineral resources. There is a big potential
for finding more oil, natural gas, gold and copper. The deeper formations
and outlying areas of the old mining areas and the western regions are
the major substitute areas of mineral resources.
China was one of the first countries in the world to develop its own mineral
resources. After the founding of New China, the Chinese government made
great efforts to strengthen geological work, and explicitly demanded that
this work should go ahead of the economic construction. It formulated
the strategic principle for “the development of the mining industry”
and made specific arrangements for the exploration and development of
mineral resources in all its five-year plans. Great progress has been
made in the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources, so that
China has gradually become a major country in mineral resources and the
mining industry. Mineral resources prospecting and exploitation have supplied
large quantities of energy and raw and processed materials for economic
construction; provided important sources of revenue; accelerated the development
of regional economies, especially economic development in regions inhabited
by the ethnic minorities as well as remote and border areas; promoted
the rise and growth of mining cities (townships) with mineral resources
exploitation as their pillar industry; and solved the problem of employment
for large numbers of local people, thus making a major contribution to
socio-economic development in the country.
— A large number of mineral resources have been discovered and ascertained.
The discovery and construction of a large batch of oil and gas fields,
represented by the Daqing Oilfield, has turned China from an oil-poor
country into one of major oil-producing countries in the world. China
has discovered or expanded a number of major mineral deposits, including
the rare-earth metal mine in Bayun Obo, the Dexing Copper Mine, the Jinchuan
Nickel Mine, the Shizhuyuan Tungsten Mine, the Luanchuan Molybdenum Mine,
the Ashile Copper Mine, the Jiaojia Gold Mine, the Yulong Copper Mine,
the Dachang Tin Mine, the lead-zinc mines at Changba and Lanping, the
Dongsheng-Shenmu Coalfield, the Zijinshan Copper-Gold Mine and the Yangbajain
Geothermal Field. It has also discovered and ascertained a number of major
sources of groundwater supply. Parts of the western regions have gradually
revealed good prospects for finding mineral resources. New resources have
been found in the outlying areas or deeper strata of some of the existing
mines. A succession of achievements has been made in the new round of
large-scale land and resources survey. The surveys of mineral resources
over the past 50 years and more have turned China from a country with
uncertainty on mineral resources to a country rich in mineral resources,
from a country with little-known groundwater resources to a country with
groundwater playing a key role in the national water supply. At the same
time, China has fostered a large contingent of geological surveyors with
a fine tradition and working style, and strong technical forces, who have
made important contributions to economic construction in China.
— The scale of mineral resources exploitation has expanded rapidly.
In 1949, China had just over 300 properly developed mines, producing annually
about 120,000 tons of crude oil, 32 million tons of coal, 160,000 tons
of steel, 13,000 tons of non-ferrous metals, 10,000 tons of pyrite and
less than 100,000 tons of phosphorus. Over the past 50 years or more,
China has evolved a large supply system for energy, mineral products and
other raw and processed materials, with the successful construction of
large petroleum-producing bases such as Daqing, Shengli and Liaohe; large
coal-mining centers such as Datong, Yanzhou, Pingdingshan, Huainan, Huaibei
and Junggar; large iron and steel production bases such as Shanghai, Anshan,
Wuhan and Panzhihua; large non-ferrous metal refining bases such as Baiyin,
Jinchuan, Tongling, Dexing and Gejiu; and large chemical mining centers
such as Kaiyang, Kunyang and Yunfu. The mushrooming of mining cities has
accelerated urbanization in the country. At present, China’s output
and consumption of mineral products rank among the biggest in the world.
In 2002, China had 489 large mines, 1,025 medium-sized ones, and well
over 140,000 small ones and sand and clay quarries, employing a total
of 9.07 million people, with the output value of the mining industry coming
to 454.2 billion yuan. It produced 167 million tons of crude oil and 32.7
billion cu m of natural gas. The amount of mineral ores, and sand and
clay excavated totaled 4.849 billion tons, including 1.38 billion tons
of raw coal, 231 million tons of iron ore, and 23.01 million tons of phosphorus
ore; while the output of 10 non-ferrous metals totaled 10.12 million tons.
The output of raw coal, steel, 10 non-ferrous metals and cement ranks
first in the world; the output of phosphorus ore and pyrite ranks second
and third, respectively, and that of crude oil takes the fifth place.
The state-owned mining enterprises form the pillar of mineral resources
exploitation in China, and also the stable supply base for its energy
and raw and processed materials industries. The crude oil, natural gas
and 36% of the output of other mineral ores come from 7,679 state-owned
mining enterprises. The state-owned mining enterprises have not only laid
the foundation for industrial and agricultural development, but also made
important contributions to the improvement of the people’s living
standards and the growth of the comprehensive national strength. Since
the mid-1980s, other types of mining enterprises have also witnessed rapid
development. There are now 140,000 non-state-owned mining enterprises,
including 132 established with investment from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan
businesses, and 160 with foreign investment.
— The level of mineral resources protection and rational utilization
has been gradually raised. In the past 50-odd years, China has made great
progress in its use of geo-physical exploration, geo-chemical exploration,
remote-sensing, drilling and tunneling technologies, laboratory test and
computer technology for mineral resources prospecting. It has raised the
scientific and technological level of its mineral resources exploration.
Notable results have been obtained in the multipurpose use and recovery
of mineral resources, and the rate of resources utilization has been gradually
increased. At present, the recovery rate of scrap steel in China is 40%,
and the comprehensive recovery rate of scrap non-ferrous metals is 27.70%.
Supplies of practically all platinum-group and scattered elements have
come from the multipurpose use of mineral resources. Nearly one third
of the raw materials for sulfuric acid are also recovered in the production
of non-ferrous metals. Some of the coal mining enterprises produce the
coal-associated gas, oil shale, kaolin and high-alumina clay for multipurpose
development, and process and utilize coal gangue and flyash, reaping good
economic results and environmental benefits.
— Foreign trade in mineral products has grown fast. China’s
total volume of imports and exports of mineral products, energy and raw
and processed materials came to US$111.1 billion in 2002, accounting for
18% of China’s total volume of imports and exports. Mineral products
that were imported in large quantities included crude oil, iron ore, manganese
ore, fine copper ore and potash fertilizer. Meanwhile, China exported
large quantities of lead, zinc, tungsten, tin, antimony, rare earths,
magnesite, fluorspar, barite, talc, and graphite, and other leading mineral
products. China’s cooperation with other countries in the field
of mineral resources is expanding constantly. Through prospecting for
offshore oil and gas resources in cooperation with foreign companies,
a number of new oil and gas fields have been discovered, and the offshore
oil and gas output has grown year by year. Prospecting for and exploitation
of oil and gas resources in other countries have reached a certain scale.
Prospecting for and exploitation of hard rock mineral resources in other
countries have also begun. Relations of cooperation in long-term research
and development in the field of coal bed methane have been established
with some countries.
However, there are still some contradictions and problems in mineral resources
survey and development in China.
They are mainly:
— The contradiction between the fast economic growth and the huge
consumption of some mineral resources. There is a fairly large gap between
the supply and demand in oil, high-grade iron, high-grade copper, fine-quality
bauxite, chromite and sylvite. The degree of difficulty in looking for
mineral resources by geological means in the eastern regions has increased,
and the increase range of proved reserves there has slowed down. The production
in some mines has entered the middle or late phase, and their reserves
and output are decreasing year by year.
— Serious waste and environmental pollution still exist in the exploitation
and utilization of mineral resources. The overall arrangements of the
mining areas are not satisfactory, and the prospecting and mining technologies
are backward, and there is still serious waste in the consumption of resources.
The protection of the environment of the mines calls for further improvement.
— Mineral resources exploration and exploitation are imbalanced
between regions. The western regions and the outlying parts of the central
regions abound in resources, but their natural conditions are poor, their
ecological systems are weak, and the work of geological survey and assessment
remains at a low level, thus restricting the development of the resources.
— The degree of market-oriented exploration and development of mineral
resources is not high. The market-oriented systems regarding the rights
of prospecting for and extracting of minerals should be further improved.
Management of mineral resources should be further improved and standardized.
The scope of international exchange and cooperation in the field of mineral
resources should be further broadened.