China's mineral resources are widely distributed throughout all provinces/autonomous regions, municipalities and counties. Distribution does, however, vary from region to region due to the differences in the geotectonic zone and minerogenic conditions reflected in the vast differences in mineral type, reserve amount and quality. Mineral resources distributed in eastern, middle and western regions all have different characteristics. Figure 1-1 shows mineral resource distribution in eastern, central and western China.
The eastern region represents the downstream of China's major rivers and is mainly covered with plains occasionally separated by hills. With even terrain, an advanced network of rivers, and close proximity to the sea, China's eastern region provides convenient transportation conditions. As the leading region in China's economic development and opening to the outside world, the region is highly industrialized and urbanized, with obvious advantages in science & technology and economic development. The region occupies an important position in terms of its raw material extraction industry. The output shares of crude coal, crude oil, electric power, steel, caustic soda and chemical fertilizer in the Eastern Region take up 23%, 42%, 49%, 58%, 64% and 42% respectively of the total output in China.
A relative shortage of resources is a major hindrance to the economic development of the eastern region. Mineral resources, particularly energy resources are rare in this region. For example, the region's reserves of coal, natural gas, copper, bauxite and phosphorus only account for 6.6%, 30%, 7.7%, 19.7% and 11.7% of the country's total amount respectively.
Generally speaking, the eastern region's north is rich in mineral resources while mineral resources in the south are scant, with Shandong province as the dividing point.
There are abundant energy resources in this region, and many types of metallic and non-metallic mineral resources. More than 20 kinds of mineral resources account for 50% or more of the total in China. For example, residual exploitable petroleum resources account for approximately 50%, conserved reserves of bauxite resources account for 61%, conserved reserves of copper resources account for 47%, and conserved reserves of phosphorus resources account for 40% of the country's total amount.
From the mineral resources' geological distribution perspective, coal resources are mainly distributed in Shanxi, Heilongjiang and other provinces; petroleum resources are mainly distributed in Heilongjiang and non-ferrous metallic and non-metallic resources are mainly found in the region's southern provinces. For example, phosphorus resources are mainly found in Hubei and account for 21% of the total phosphorus reserves in China. Bauxite resources are concentrated in Henan with reserves accounting for 18% of the total in China. Copper resources are found mainly inJiangxi, and account for 22% of the country's total reserves.
This central region is the major base for China's fundamental industries such as energy and raw materials. This region's output of crude oil and crude coal accounts for more than 50% of the total in China. The coal industry plays a key role in the country's national economy. The largest energy resource base in China is the coal base centred around Shanxi province. With its good geographical location, enormous reserves, excellent coal quality, a full range of varieties of coal, and ease of exploitation, the base has become the country's largest coal supply base. Coalfields in Heilongjiang form one of north-east China's major coal bases. Coalfields in Huaibei and Huainan in Anhui Province constitute east China's major coal base. Daqing Oilfield and Zhongyuan Oilfield are both large-sized petroleum bases in China. The output of copper and that of phosphorus ores in this central region of China occupy 40% of the total output in China. Key industry bases for raw materials in the middle region include steel and iron industry bases such as Wuhan, Ma'anshan and Taiyuan; the aluminum industry base in Shanxi; the copper industry bases inJiangxi, Hunan and Anhui; the coal chemical industry bases in Shanxi and the west of Henan; the phosphorus chemical industry base in Hubei; and the petro-chemical industry base in Jilin.
The concentrated distribution of mineral resources in the western region of China produces a strong relative advantage for the region, and provides a strong foundation of resources for pillar industries. Among the total 159 mineral resources with proven reserves throughout the country, 138 can be found in the western region of China. Among them, over 30 mineral resources such as coal, petroleum and natural gas, leopoldite, chromite, rare earth minerals, phosphorus, nickel, vanadium, manganese, copper, zinc and so forth are plentiful relative to other regions. Xinjiang's prospective reserves of coal rank first in China. The prospecting potential of petroleum and natural gas resources in the Ordos Basin, Talimu Basin, Zhunge'er Basin, Tulufan and Hami Basin, Chaidamu Basin and Sichuan Basin are also promising.
This region is rich in non-ferrous metal resources and a major reserve area for non-metallic mineral resources including mica, asbestos, gypsum, jade and magnesite. There are also many kinds of metallic and non-metallic ores of high grade found in the region such as the chromite deposits in Tibet; nickel, copper and zinc deposits in Gansu; mercury deposits in Guizhou; tin, phosphorus, copper, lead and zinc deposits in Yunnan; potassium, aluminum and asbestos deposits in Qinghai, molybdenum deposits in Shaanxi, and rare earth mineral deposits in Baiyun Ebo of Inner Mongolia.
The region is also leading in its output of some key mineral products and non-ferrous metals among its major industrial products. The region's output of nickel, mercury accounts for 99%, 84% and 72% respectively, of China's total output, while that of phosphorus deposits, aluminum and natural gas
accounts for nearly 50% of the country's total output. The output of other mineral products, however, only accounts for a small proportion of China's total output.
The western region of China has a rather vulnerable ecology. Eco-deterioration is emerging in the Loess Plateau, the south-western karst mountainous area and the desert area. Environmental protection is therefore crucial when exploiting mineral resources in this region.