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Foreign Firms Can Do More Mining

[By Tang Min. China Daily, December 4, 1999.]

China will make it easier next year for people to get mining rights and for foreigners to access future mines.

But it will not cede farmland to the mining business.

Zhou Yongkang , minister of land and resources, promised these moves yesterday during a teleconference to outline his ministry's agenda for next year.

He said the Land and Resources Ministry would also do more to attract foreign money for mining and mineral processing.

Zhou said the expansion of mining claims and the invitation of foreign funds would make more minerals available and make them easier to process.

Mineral prospecting and exploitation is especially encouraged in western China to build up that area's economy.

The ministry is checking into western China's mineral resources , land availability, natural environment, and geology. The government hopes to catalogue mining prospects in this part of the country.

But Zhou emphasized that to develop mining does not mean digging for minerals on the country's cultivated land. He said farmland should be conserved.

Other than the country's major infrastructure projects, no construction should replace farms outside pre-planned development zones. China wants to conserve its limited number of farms to feed the nation's billion-plus population.

"The trend of wanton abuse of cultivated land has been curbed," Zhou said.

Zhou noted a sharp decrease this year in the amount of illegally occupied farmland.


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