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Scientists plan to explore Earth's crust
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08:50, April 23, 2009

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A deep-Earth detection technology development project could enable China to begin exploring the planet's crust, a top scientist has said.

Dong Shuwen, deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and "SinoProbe" project leader, said the undertaking aimed to develop such a system by 2012.

The technologies will help scientists understand the crust's structure - relevant to many natural disasters - and assist mineral exploration, he said.

China is the world's second largest mineral resources consumer and imports more than 50 percent of the mineral resources it needs, vice-minister of land resources Xu Shaoshi said yesterday.

As mineral resources in the crust's shallow layers have already largely been discovered and exploited, "looking for deeply buried resources is the way of the future", he said. Countries including the United States and Russia are seeking to determine the crust's thickness. Currently, two methods are used - boring deep holes in the crust and employing survey techniques, Dong said.

China's SinoProbe project will study both approaches with greater attention given to the surveying methods, Dong said.

Geoscientists have been digging boreholes near the fault line in Wenchuan, the May 12 earthquake's epicenter, to install monitors.

Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences scholar Li Tingdong said the project would provide more accurate seismological data and could improve China's capabilities to forecast earthquakes and mitigate damage. Ministry of Land and Resources chief engineer Zhang Hongtao said the first borehole had reached 500 m deep - half of the planned depth of 1,000 m - because of complications arising from the complex geological structure.

Source: China Daily

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