Overseas focus key for nonferrous metals

By Du Juan, China Daily/Asia News Network

BEIJING–China will accelerate the overseas exploration of nonferrous metals to meet growing domestic demand, senior industry officials said yesterday. “Chinese companies have accelerated their exploration of overseas nonferrous mining resources in recent years, making the country an important driver of the global nonferrous metals industry’s development,” said Shang Fushan, vice chairman of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association. According to the association, China had overseas mining rights for 80 million metric tons of copper, 30 million tons of lead and zinc, and 6 million tons of nickel by the end of last year. These mining rights have an annual production capacity of 200,000 tons of copper, 35,000 tons of nickel and 900,000 tons of lead and zinc. “China’s rapid urbanization and industrialization will support the growing demand for nonferrous metals,” Shang said. “However, the domestic proven reserves are far from enough to meet the increasing demand.” He called for continued investment in the mining industry to improve the quality of its products and increase the output of copper, aluminum, lead and zinc. “The nonferrous metals industry is facing severe international competition,” said Chen Quanxun, chairman of the association. “Since the 2008 financial crisis, developed economies are more focused on the real economy (such as manufacturing), which has led to fierce competition in the mining sector.” In 2011, China’s overall output of six major nonferrous metals — copper, lead, zinc, nickel, stannum and stibium — was 8.25 million tons, up 18 percent year-on-year. The growth rate was almost double the average annual growth rate of the output of the six nonferrous metals dur]ing the 11th Five-Year-Plan (2006-10). “As a new group of mines will be put into production soon, the output of major nonferrous metals products will continue to grow at a rapid pace in the years to come,” Shang said. He said China has formed major resource bases such as those for copper in central area of the Tibet autonomous region, and for nonferrous metals in western Yunnan province, the central-eastern area of Tibet, and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. At present, the recycling of waste materials, also known as tailings, has huge potential in China, especially red mud, barren rocks and mine tailings. According to an investigation conducted by the association, the total amount of tailings from nonferrous metals mining between 1949 and 2011 reached 3.8 billion tons. These tailings contain 1.45 million tons of copper, 730,000 tons of stannum, 200,000 tons of wolfram and 3.2 million tons of lead and zinc, which have the potential to be used in many ways, according to the association.