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Big Mineral Find Made China Build Tibet Rail

The Times Of India
Saturday, January 27, 2007

Project Will Hit India's Iron Ore Exports

By Saibal Dasgupta

Beijing - What motivated China to spend a colossal $3.7 billion on the Tibet railway? At least one of the secret reasons has now tumbled out. Chinese geologists have disclosed having found 16 large copper, lead, zinc, iron ore and, possibly, crude oil deposits along the Qinghai-Tibet railway. The deposits promise to reduce China's dependence on minerals from several countries, including India.

Critics had questioned China's claim that development of Tibet was the sole purpose behind the investment, which is not likely to be realised through income from passenger traffic. Some of the reasons cited were Beijing's need to integrate Tibet with the Chinese mainland and improve military capabilities along the Himalayan border touching India, Nepal and Myanmar.

The deposits are expected to yield 18 million tonnes of copper and 10 million tonnes of lead and zinc, Meng Xianlai, director of the China Geological Survey, has announced. China is starved of mineral resources to feed its burgeoning industry and spends several billion dollars a year on imports.

Chinese steel mills are heavily dependent on imported iron ore, a large portion of which is sent from India. In fact, iron ore is the most important export from India, accounting for more than 50% of Indian exports to China. The CGS has now announced that it has found estimated reserves of 760 million tonnes of highgrade iron ore along the rail line in the Kunglun mountains on the western Qinghai-Tibet plateau and the southern Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region.

Though it was known that China has been prospecting for minerals in Tibet, the nature and size of mineral deposits was largely unknown. This is what makes the latest revelation by the China Geological Survey astonishing.


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