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English>>China Military

Soldiers of fortune target gold deposits

(China Daily)

09:40, August 14, 2012

Soldiers of the Gold Mining Unit survey mountains in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. (China Daily/Lu Guangchen)

No area is too remote for troops seeking the precious metal

Zhang Zhao has been digging for gold for 13 years in one of the country's most inhospitable areas.

He has unearthed a lot of the precious metal but this prospector has not made, nor does he seek, a fortune.

During his career, in the Greater Hinggan Mountains, he has helped discover reserves worth millions of dollars for a monthly salary of about 4,000 yuan ($629).

"It's not about the money," Zhang, a platoon leader for the Gold Mining Unit, said. "It's the pride I get from doing my duty that keeps me going."

Zhang, 32, spends more than 10 months a year collecting rock core samples in the range's virgin forests in Tahe county, Heilongjiang province. He returns to his wife and son, 2, in Hunan province, just once a year, when the extreme cold and snow make it almost impossible to carry out his work.

"Being a member of the Gold Mining Unit means going to the toughest areas and working hard," Zhang said.

The Greater Hinggan Mountains, Northeast China, are just one target area.

More than 10,000 troops survey the nation in search of precious and nonferrous metals, such as copper, lead and zinc.

Between 1979, when the unit was established, and 2010, it discovered 2,269 metric tons of gold, more than one-third of the country's verified reserves, according to the unit. Once the gold is found, mining rights will be transferred to the local or central government.

Li Dong, an analyst for the China Gold Association, estimated that the haul has contributed at least $114 billion to State coffers over the years, taking into consideration the fluctuating market price.

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