Overview of Exploration in Asia – the rising importance of China

Presentation: Society of Economic Geologists 2017 Conference,
Location: Beijing, China

This year’s SEG Conference was held in Beijing with the theme “Ore Deposits of Asia: China and Beyond”. To this end I was invited to give an overview of the mineral resources and exploration of Asia, with a special focus on the importance of China.

Asia is made up of 50 countries, and covers one-third of the World’s land area.

To simplify the analysis, I sub-divided Asia into 6 regions – Middle East, Central Asia, Indian Sub-Continent, South East Asia, North East Asia and East Asia (which includes China).

Key observations were:

  • There are currently over 8000 significant-sized non-bulk mineral deposits in the World. 2158 (27%) of these are in Asia. This includes 826 (10%) deposits in China.
  • After adjusting for the land area, Asia’s current known mineral endowment for copper, gold and lead/zinc is comparable to the rest of the World. Some Regions are better than others:
    • Central Asia is best for gold
    • South East Asia is best for copper
    • East Asia and the Indian Sub-continent are best for lead/zinc
  • Over the last decade:
    • Asia accounted for 27% of the global expenditures on non-bulk mineral exploration. Most of this was in China (16%) – making it the largest explorer in the World (larger than Canada or Australia)
    • 1147 new deposits were found in the World. 217 of these were in Asia, including 123 in China (17% of the World’s total).
    • 65 giant deposits were found in the World. 22 of these were in Asia, including 13 in China (20% of the World’sd total)
    • 14 Tier-1 deposits were found in the World. 5 of these were in Asia – all of which were in China (36%). For comparison, 3 Tier-1 deposits were found in Canada and zero in Australia.
  • The five Tier-1 deposits found in the last decade in China were:
    • Shuangjianzishan [Ag]: 181 Mt @ 144 g/t Ag + 1.82% Zn + 0.61% Pb
    • Haiyu [Au]: 67 Mt @ 7 g/t Au = 15.1 Moz
    • Huoshaoyun [Zn]: 67 Mt @ 23.9% Zn + 5.6% Pb
    • Zhuxi [W]: 280 Mt @ 0.50%W + 0.8% Cu + 11.7 g/t Ag
    • Xiling [Au]: 85 Mt @ 4.5 g/t Au= 12.3 Moz
  • In terms of exploration performance, the Value/Cost ratio (i.e. “Bang per Buck”) for Asia was 0.62 versus the World average of 0.56. Within Asia, the Value/Cost ratio varied widely:
    • Central Asia (0.06), Indian Sub-Continent (0.09), South East Asia (0.33), Middle East (0.39), North East Asia (0.40) and East Asia (0.82)
    • China (0.81) did very well – mainly due to the large number of high-value Tier-1 deposits found

In summary, given the large land area, good endowment and the high level of exploration activity, China has (and will continue) to play a key role in delivering new discoveries to the World.

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