China's Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) will focus closely on the national strategic needs and implement another round of strategic actions to seek breakthroughs in critical mineral exploration and expand production capacity.
The remarks were made by Minister of Natural Resources Wang Guanghua at a mining industry meeting in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province. They indicate that China is stepping up exploration and mining of rare materials that are critical for the development of strategic industries, as the US' "tech war" against China continues to intensify, analysts noted.
In the speech, Wang said that in the next five years, the MNR will focus on three major tasks - implementing another round of strategic actions for breakthroughs in exploration, achieving increased production capacity for critical minerals, and bolstering mineral resources reserves, according to a statement posted on the MNR's website.
The efforts are aimed at achieving new breakthroughs in critical mineral exploration and expansion of reserves, Wang said, stressing that the current main tasks are to further strengthen the basic geological survey of minerals, strengthen the exploration of strategic minerals that are in short supply, accelerate the promotion of key mining projects, vigorously promote scientific and technological research, and increase financial investment.
"My understanding is that this is focused on 'three-type rare resources,'" Zhang Xiaorong, director of the Beijing-based Cutting-Edge Technology Research Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that China has long been focused on exploration in this area.
"Three-type rare resources" is the general term of rare earth, rare resources and rarely scattered resources, which are critical for a wide range of high-tech areas, including sophisticated weapons, information technology, energy conservation and pharmaceuticals.
China's efforts to ramp up exploration and production capacity for these resources have renewed urgency, as the US and some of its Western allies are moving swiftly to not only cut China off from high-tech equipment but also to compete with China in critical minerals under the name of "decoupling" or "de-risking."
In what has been widely viewed as a response to the West's "tech war" against China, Chinese ministries on Monday announced that they would impose export controls on items related to gallium and germanium, both of which are critical in the manufacturing of semiconductors and other high-tech components. While Chinese officials have reiterated that the move is aimed at protecting China's national security and interests and is not aimed at any specific country, the move still sent shockwaves among many Western officials and companies.
Many mineral sources such as gallium and germanium have been thoroughly surveyed, but further exploration cannot be ruled out, according to Zhang, noting China's long-term efforts in the exploration of critical minerals.
In an interview with the Xinhua News Agency in January, Wang, the MNR minister, acknowledged the country's high dependence on some imported mineral resources and the necessity to take precautions to ensure energy security. "We will launch a new round of domestic prospecting operations, focusing on strategic bulk minerals and minerals that are in short supply," he said.