Overview of Exploration in Asia – the rising importance of China

Keynote paper for the Society of Economic Geologists 2017 Conference, Beijing, China, September 2017

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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