This Month in Mining: China

Experts project that China’s copper demand will reach 1.3M mt and 1.7M mt by 2000 and 2010, respectively. The annual average consumption of copper was 1.25M mt in 1996 and 1997, occupying third place in the world, exceeded only by the United States and Japan.

According to the customs’ statistics, China imported 700K mt copper (including copper concentrate, crude copper, copper scrap, copper alloys, and copper products) in 1995 and 1996, thus leading to an annual trade deficit of more than $2B. In these two years, domestic copper supply was about 650K mt/yr, domestic content accounting for 52%.

The maximum domestic copper supply by 2010 is expected to be 900K mt, of which mine output supply accounts for SOOK mt, the balance being copper scrap. There were almost no changes in domestic content ratio.

Currently, China’s proven copper reserves total about 62.4 M mt. Of this total, producing mines’ reserves are 33.8M mt, accounting for 54.2%, and reserves usable in the near future are 5.4M mt, accounting for 8.6%. Only two large rich copper deposits, the Ashelei, Habahe, Xinjiang, and Zijinshan, Shanghang, Fujian, have been discovered in China in the past 10 years. Geological prospecting departments expect that newly boosted copper resources will reach about 20M mt by 2010.

Currently, Chinese average production costs of copper concentrates and refined copper are $1,669/mt and $2,289/mt, respectively, both higher than those of foreign enterprises. So its products are uncompetitive in international markets.

Last year the government removed its limitation on commercial copper demand, which has been in effect since 1989, so increased copper consumption is expected. Demand is likely to accelerate and surpass production, thus increasing importation of large amounts of copper concentrates and other copper supplies in the next several years.-LGH

A large gold deposit was found by No. 10 Gold Geological Prospecting Group of the Armed Police Force at Penglaiy, Shandong Province. Reportedly, gold reserves of several tons have been delineated in dozens of gold lodes. This polymetallic sulphide ore deposit is reported to be shallow, high grade, and easily exploited and beneficiated.-LGH

Fujian Minbei Geological Team of the Nanping Mining Development Co. and Ningxia Nonferrous Metal Smelter have invested $6.75M at a ratio of 4:4:2 to form a joint venture, the Mining Tantalum and Niobium Mining Development Co. Ltd. The company plans to begin production before July 1, 1999. The firs-phase project will reach a capacity of 600 mt/d ore, yielding 116 mt/yr tantalum and niobium concentrate and 120M mt/yr nonmetallic mineral products. Daily mining and dressing capacity is about to attain to 1,200 mt by 2002 and 2,000 mt by 2005.

The Xikeng tantalum and niobium resource at Nanping in Fujian Province is a large deposit that was discovered by Fujian Geological Prospecting Bureau in the 1970-80s. It is a granite pegmatite-type and covers an area of 16 km2 with proven reserves of 3.85M mt.-LGH Reportedly, China’s gold miners produced 166.3 mt gold in 1997. This would be an increase of 37.9% compared with 1996. Gold reserves only account for about 5% of total world reserves; ore grades are low, average mining grades of lode gold deposits are under 5 g/mt, and production costs are as high as $290/oz. Additionally, the monopoly of state banks made gold producers less competitive internationally.

To overcome the above difficulties, China is likely to promote amalgamations and mergers between its more than 1,200 existing gold operations and to introduce foreign capital, thus improving its gold industry’s competitiveness in international markets.

For 1998 China plans to produce 115 mt gold.-LGH

Guangxi Manganese Mine Co. is setting up an open-pit manganese mine in Tiandeng County, Guangxi. It will have a mining/processing capacity of 250K mt/yr. Capex is estimated to be $7.2M. The project, when completed, is to produce 12K mt/yr manganese concentrates. The Tiandeng manganese deposit, discovered by Mugui Geological Group of Guangxi Geology Administration and prospected by Guangxi Metallurgy No. 273 Geological Group, is located at Dongping Town of Tiandeng County and Jiangcheng Town of Tiandong County in Guangxi. It is one of the largest manganese oxide deposits in China. Proven reserves total 16.2M mt ores. LGH

The China State Council has approved a proposal for the Ashele copper mine project. The project is expected to produce 23K mt/yr copper, 11K mt/yr zinc-contained-inconcentrates, and 870K mt sulphur. The $106M project will be developed by the jointventure partners China National Nonferrous Metals Industry Corp., Xinjiang Prospect and Exploitation Bureau for Geology and Mineral Resources, and Xinjiang Investment Co. Construction on the main shaft is scheduled for third-quarter 1998. The Ashele copper deposit is in Habahe County, Aletai Prefecture, Xinjiang.-LGH

Two large mineral deposits have been found by Hebei Prospect and Exploitation Bureau for Geology and Mineral Resources. A gold deposit in the Chaichang-Konggezhuang region of Yi County and a lead/zinc deposit in Bichagoumen region of Longhua County, both in Hebei, have been discovered. Based on existing information, probable reserves for the two deposits are estimated to be more than 100 mt gold and 3M mt lead/zinc, respectively.-LGH

Copyright Intertec Publishing May 1998

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