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Massive Metals Deposits Revealed Along China's Qinghai-Tibet Railway

By: Dorothy Kosich
Mineweb - Johannesburg, South Africa

RENO, NV (Mineweb.com) --Chinese geologists have disclosed one of the closely-held secrets that motivated the nation to spend US$3.7 billion on the Tibet railway: the discovery of large mineral deposits that may reduce the nation's dependence on mineral imports.

Critics had long questioned China's claim that the development of Tibet was the sole reason behind the building of the 1,956-km Qinghai-Tibet Railway. Now, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua has reported that Meng Xiani, director of the China Geological Survey (CGS), has revealed that 16 large copper, lead, zinc, iron iron and crude oil deposits along the railway are expected to yield 18 million tons of copper, and 10 million tons of lead and zinc.

One copper deposit on Qulong has a proven reserve of 7.89 million tons, second only to the country's largest copper mine in Dexing in China's Jiangxi Province. The CGS believes the copper reserves in Quolong could reach 18 million tons, making it the largest copper deposit in the country.

Zhang said three major copper deposits in Qulong and in Yunan Province's Pulang and Yangla regions, will add 26.78 million tons of copper to China's reserves, increase total mined copper output by almost a third, and reduce China's dependence on copper imports. China's copper miners currently produce about 600,000 tons of copper annually. The nation imported another 731,200 tons of refined copper from January to November last year, more than a quarter of its domestic output.

Chinese steel mills are extremely dependent on imported iron ore. The Chinese Geological Survey announced it has found estimated reserves of 760 million tons of high-grade iron ore along the rail line in the Kunglun Mountain on the western Qinghai-Tibet plateau and the southern Xinjiang Province, according to Deputy Director Zhang Hongtao.

Zhang also noted that the Midwestern part of the northern Qiangtang Basin in northern Tibet has favorable conditions and promising resources for oil and gas, according to the Beijing office of the Press Trust of India.

Meanwhile, the official Chinese Government news service Xinhau reported that the China Iron and Steel Association has vowed to cut the number of domestic companies importing iron ore to 90 this year. All outdated steel mills will be closed by the end of the year. The world's top iron ore consumer, China imported 326 million tons of iron ore in 2006.

At a recent steel and iron ore industry meeting in Kuming City, it was disclosed that 20% of the nation's iron-ore importers are expected to be out of business at the end of this year.

Meng said it China's economic security would ultimately be endangered if the nation continued to rely on imports of major mineral resources in the long term. He added that the results of the geological survey along the railroad proved it was possible to improve China's natural resources security.

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