Chinese geologists have discovered 16 large copper, iron, lead and zinc ore deposits along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway route since 1999, said the country's top geological surveyor here Wednesday.
Geologists initially found five non-ferrous metal deposits along the 1,956-kilometer railway with total possible reserves of more than 20 million tons of copper and 10 million tons of lead and zinc, said Meng Xianlai, director of the China Geological Survey (CGS) under the Ministry of Land and Resources, on Wednesday.
They included a copper deposit in Qulong, Tibet Autonomous Region, with a proved reserve of 7.89 million tons, second only to the country's largest copper mine in Dexing of east China's Jiangxi Province, said Meng.
The CGS predicted the possible copper reserves in Qulong could reach 18 million tons, making it the biggest copper deposit in China.
Estimated reserves of 760 million tons of high-grade iron ore were found in the Kunglun Mountains on the western Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and southern Xinjiang Province, which the Qinghai-Tibet Railway crosses, said Zhang Hongtao, deputy director of the CGS.
Meanwhile, the mid-western part of the northern Qiangtang basin in northern Tibet, which is also along the railway, has favorable conditions for oil and gas and promising reserves, said Zhang.
Experts say the exploration of mineral resources along the railway is significant to the railway's efficient use, regional economic development and meeting the country's resource demands.
China has found 812 new deposits of copper, iron, lead and zinc, gold, silver and phosphorite since 1999, said Meng.
The findings, including three major copper deposits in Qulong and in Yunan Province's Pulang and Yangla regions, will add 26.78 million tons of copper to the country's mineral reserves and reduce national dependence on imports, said Zhang.
"Once the three copper deposits are exploited, they will increase the total output of China's copper mines by almost a third," he said.
China's copper mines are estimated to produce about 600,000 tons of copper a year, and the country is the world's largest copper consumer and importer of refined copper.
China imported 731,200 tons of refined copper from January to November last year, more than a quarter of its domestic output.
It would inevitably endanger China's economic safety to rely on imports of major mineral resources in the long term, said Meng, who added the results of the geological survey proved it was possible to improve national resource security.
The world's top iron ore consumer, China imported 326 million tons of iron ore sand and concentrate last year, 18.6 percent up year on year, customs figures show.