China’s known mineral and energy reserves have grown significantly over the past five years, the Ministry of Natural Resources said on July 9.
Many new deposits of major strategic minerals — including gold, natural gas, shale gas, flake graphite and tungsten — were discovered from 2012 to 2017, according to a report by the ministry.
Flake graphite, which has a wide range of applications, including fuel cells, coatings and thermal materials, saw the biggest increase in reserves — nearly doubling.
Gold reserves grew by 61 percent while those for tungsten rose 47.9 percent during the period.
Shale gas, a new energy source that China began to explore in 2005, has the greatest potential, according to Ju Jianhua, leader of the ministry’s working group that handles the protection of mineral resources.
Last year, recoverable shale gas reserves hit 198 billion cubic meters, an increase of 62 percent over 2016, while last year’s new total shale gas reserves were estimated to be as high as 377 billion cubic meters.
Four big shale gas fields were discovered in the Sichuan Basin in Southwest China, of which two, found last year, were estimated at more than 100 billion cubic meters each.
“China is now among the few countries in the world that are conducting large-scale commercial extraction of shale gas,” Ju said.
He said mineral resources are fundamental to China’s social and economic development. Currently, the country faces challenges including a lack of technological innovation and an increasing dependence on imports of some minerals from foreign countries, including chrome and cobalt, which are commonly used in gas turbines, as well as in dental and orthopedic implants.
Last year, a total of 77 billion yuan ($11.6 billion) was invested in mineral exploration, the ministry said.