( Xinhua ) - The search is on for domestic reserves of key resources, such as iron ore and crude oil, to reduce dependence on imports, according to a government plan released Wednesday.
By 2010, China aims to find 10 new oil fields, each with a reserve of at least 100 million tons, and eight to 10 new gas fields, each with a reserve of more than 100 billion cu m of natural gas, the national geological surveying and prospecting plan said.
By the same year, the country is also seeking to find about 200 large mines, with coal, iron and copper being the resources most urgently needed, the plan drafted by the Ministry of Land and Resources, said.
Ju Jianhua, deputy head of the ministry's planning department, said: "The plan is of strategic importance to China, which is becoming increasingly dependent on imports."
The country is the world's second largest crude oil importer. In 2006, it imported 145 million tons, which accounted for more than 45 percent of that year's total domestic consumption.
"The year-on-year increase of domestic crude oil production - 1.7 percent in 2006 - is far less than that of consumption, which is currently 12.8 percent," he said.
China is also the world's largest importer of iron and copper ores. In 2006, it imported 50 percent of its total requirement, he said.
"As a result of a slowdown in geological surveying since the 1980s, when China was moving towards a market-oriented economy, we are now facing the prospect that by 2020, domestic supplies of nearly 20 kinds of minerals could be insufficient to meet demand," he said.
New oil fields, gas fields and mines are being sought to provide an alternative to existing ones that are nearing exhaustion, Ju said.
"Five to 10 years after they have been found and verified, the fields can be developed and put into production. Their output will replace and hopefully surpass what is currently being generated," he said.
"This will help stabilize the price of iron ore and other resources."
Prospecting work currently under way for oil and gas fields and other mines is progressing well. Large oil fields have already been found in central and west China, and in offshore areas of the east, Ju said.