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Nov 2007 - China Secrets

China Starts to Reveal its Geological Secrets

At the China Mining Conference in Beijing (13-15 November 2007), China’s Geological Survey (CGS) unprecedentally made public a mass of geological data including 9 national plan releases ranging from geochem to spatial to database to age (isotopic) and ~3000 related geological reports and maps that can be accessed through two new websites, namely www.cgs.gov.cn & www.ngac.cn being the CGS and the national geological archives respectively. Some data is also available on the MLR website.

Up until now geological information has been close to a state secret, and many companies have been frustrated in their attempts to fly surveys or use chopper access, with a general belief that China may or may not have the capability of flying geophysical surveys.

In 1999, Sino Gold established its PGA (project generation/acquisition) group that started their China Review Project, which took 3.5 years to compile an extremely comprehensive database that covered the Geology of China and the characteristics of over 8,100 of China’s gold deposits and 2,200 other mineral deposits. This resulted in SGX having its own geological maps of areas and provinces, some of which have become public.

However, more was known to exist after one of the Australian listed companies saw a geochem plan that they were totally unaware of, covering their entire region last year.

In the release, the workings of the CGS were revealed as consisting of 6,523 staff of which in its headquarters and 27 affiliated institutions there are 17 academic(ian)s; 2,193 with senior academic titles and 1,088 with a Ph.D or Masters degree. The Central Government invests ~Rmb2bnpa (not a mis-print) or almost A$300m per year into the CGS, underpinning its national importance.

The CGS owns 8 aeroplanes for remote sensing and geophys (a model of one of its choppers was on display in the MLR booth as shown in Figure 1), plus 4 ships for marine surveys, and the Central Government recently spent a further Rmb1.5bn (just over A$200m) upgrading geological instrument equipment.

The main releases consisted of the regional geochem database of stream samples, being 1.42m samples assayed for 39 elements, covering 6.5m sqkm compiled from the late 1970s to 2002 and available in 1300 map sheets of 1:200,000 scale covering mainly the eastern and partly western area of China plus 18 maps of 1:500,000scale covering parts of the western area.

Secondly, there are the 1:200,000 digital geological maps and database comprising 1163 map sheets and about 20 m(illion) geological orebodies in 90gb of data. The 1:250,000 3rd release consists of 177 map sheets of which 34 contain digitized field data and 143 are digitized on paper maps covering 35 geological entities such as veins, deposits, intrusive etc. The 4th release comprises of 1000gb of data based on 212 1:500,000 geological maps, 552 1:200,000 maps, 2,464 1:50,000maps and 174 geological research papers available through website attribute queries.

The 5th and 6th releases were 1:2.5m & 1:5m digital geological maps of China, while the 7th release related to isotope age data. The 8th release covered various geological work to 2000 containing mine area information etc, with the 9th release covering work after 2000.

It was stated that more info was available in Mandarin than in English (due to translation), and that the geodata would increase by 50% during the coming year to 2008. The historic 22,000 geological documents of the past 100 years were being digitised with 20% currently available, 50% expected to be completed by 2010 and 100% by 2015. More limited data was being regularly added and the current “limited” available databases and maps such as aeromag, mineral deposits, gravity etc and 1:50,000 geomaps could gradually become public.

Originally the distribution of maps of less than 1:200,000 scale were reputedly only available from Provincial authorities, but times are gradually changing and China stated that they wanted to encourage the application of new geological techniques to find orebodies, and were hence establishing relationships with various international geological societies.

It was surprising that there were only about 5 expats (non-Chinese) in the audience for that complete afternoon session on 14 November 2007, that consisted of 9 presentations that handed out about 5 CDs/DVDs per person and a wealth of geological data in English and Mandarin. A number of people commented that they either did not attend because they thought nothing was going to be released or “its geology”.

The other presentations focused on geological discoveries by the CGS during the past year, iron ore exploration and its potential in China, and a number of selected ore deposits.

It does only appear to be a case of time before companies can use aircraft or helicopters to fly their own surveys, especially if they can show the potential rewards that could be achieved. However, the step by the CGS was unprecedented and certainly a step in the right direction of encouraging exploration in China by companies able to apply other techniques of finding mineralisation and ultimately mineable orebodies.

Disclosure and Disclaimer: This article has been written by Keith Goode, the Managing Director of Eagle Research Advisory Pty Ltd, (ERA, an independent research company) who is an Authorised Representative with Taylor Collison Ltd, and with his associates, may hold interests in some of the stocks mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article should not be taken as investment advice, but are based on observations by the author. The author does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information and is not liable for any loss or damage suffered through any reliance on its contents.

Figure 1. One of CGS’s Choppers (on display at China Mining November 2007 in Beijing)GDNnov07-1

  • Written by: Keith Goode
  • Thursday, 01 November 2007