BEIJING, May 14 -- China is preparing pilot programmes to protect strategic reserves of minerals, starting with trial schemes for coal and rare earths, officials have said, according to newspaper reports on Friday.
Cheng Liwei, an official in China's Ministry of Land and Resources, told a recent meeting that the ministry had drafted "plans for trial sites and the related policies, and will launch the trial sites for mineral production area reserves as quickly as possible," the official China Mining News reported.
The first products under the pilot programme will be coal and rare earths, the Chinese-language report said.
The report shed few details of how the reserves policies for minerals will work, or when the full policies will be rolled out, but stressed the urgency driving the effort.
The report came a year after China's National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning body, said China would set up 80-120 million tonnes of coal reserves in Shandong province over the following 3-5 years.
The Chinese government has been alarmed by feverish, and sometimes reckless mining booms sparked by the country's rapid economic growth, and has been seeking to strengthen state controls of minerals.
But China has also been caught short when domestic demand suddenly surpassed domestic supplies, causing shortages and price spikes. Although China is the world's biggest coal producer, coal stocks and supplies ran dangerously low this winter when temperatures plunged unexpectedly.
"Strategic reserves for mineral resources are an important measure...for ensuring our country's resource security," Cheng, the official, told the meeting, according to the report.
"Mineral production area reserves are a way of protecting the long-term efficacy of resource reserves that is relatively cheap to operate, but this still has not entered the phase of substantive implementation, and urgently requires expansion," the paper cited Cheng as saying.
A government plan from 2008 proposed establishing 40 to 50 mineral reserve sites by 2020, including 10 to 20 areas for special varieties of coal or regions short in coal, as well as 10 to 30 for rare earths, tungsten and antimony, the report said.
Chinese media reports last August said China's top coal miner, Shenhua Group, would build strategic coal reserves.