Other natural resources of Xinjiang

Source:Global Times Published: 2011-2-28 16:14:00

Xinjiang has three large mountains of Altay, Tianshan, and Kunlun and the two great basins of Junggar and Tarim and is said to be a place of "treasure on every mountain, oil in every basin". The Altay Mountain in the north means "the place producing gold". As a saying goes, there are seventy-two ditches in Altay Mountain and each ditch has gold and jewels. The Altun Mountain in the south is also named after gold.

Mineral resources are widely distributed with more than one hundred important metallogenic belt. There are oil, gas, coal and mineral salts in large basins like Tarim, Junggar and Turpan, and gold, iron, nonferrous metals, rare metals, and non-metallic mines in mountains like Altay, Tianshan, Kunlun and Altun.

Among the 122 minerals that have been discovered, several are the largest reserves nationwide. These include beryllium, muscovite, natron saltpeter, pottery clay and serpentine. Known reserves of iron ore are put at 730 million tons, while those for salt are 318 million tons, mirabilite 170 million tons and natron saltpeter over 2 million tons. With its deposits of more than 70 non-metallic minerals.

Xinjiang has very rich reserves of mineral resources. Among the 117 ores with proved recoverable reserves, five ores reserves rank as the top one of the country, twenty-four are among the top five and forty-three are in the top ten.

Xinjiang's various basins, large or small, are rich in oil and gas resources with a reserve of more than 30 billion tons, which account for one-third of the country's total. In the 1950's China built its first large-scale oil field in Karamay and thus retorted upon experts' prediction that China had no oil reserve.


Karamay Oilfield

Xinjiang's coal resources are extraordinarily rich and account for more than 40 percent of China's total coal reserve and rank the number one in the whole country. There are only ten basins with over 500 billion tons coal resources, and Xinjiang has two of them. These coal mines have not only a large reserve but also full variety of coal sorts, including gas coal, fat coal, coking coal, lean coal and lignite etc., which are of good quality and used widely.

Sylvite is a scarce resource in China and it has long depended on imports, but Lop Nor of Xinjiang is abundant in sylvite resources and has a huge reserve. Large scale exploitation of sylvite in Lop Nor can effectively ease conflicts between supply and demand of sylvite.

There are rich resources of building materials, such as marble, granite, asbestos ore and limestone, with great variety and good quality. In addition, Xinjiang is well known both at home and abroad for its muscovite, gemstones, asbestos and Khotan (Hetian) jade. Since ancient times, Xinjiang is a well-known Home of Gems and Jade. Now various kinds of silicified wood, colorful stones and rare rocks are very popular among collectors.


Hetian Jade

Just as its name implies, Hetian Jade is produced locally and its origin is very important. Each piece of jade produced in the middle and lower reaches of the river has the distinctive shape of a cobble-stone and this is generally referred to as 'Seed Jade'. These pieces are produced from the jade seams in the mountain-sides and are washed out by natural weathering before they are carried down into the river by the fast-flowing outwash from the headwaters and glaciers.

After many years of constant washing by the river water and repeated tumbling amongst the stones on the riverbed, the edges and corners of the jade rock are ground smooth and rounded. Weaker pieces are gradually broken up by the battering among stones and the debris slowly flows further down the river. What remains are those strong and solid lumps of top-grade material. Hetian Seed Jade is especially fine and smooth, fluid-looking yet tough. It is considered to be of the highest quality among the collections of numerous connoisseurs.

The jade form the 'hanliushui' family is like a double-edged sword being tempered, yet not quite reaching perfection. While the edges are ground to the requisite rounded shape and it is smooth, it can be relatively weak structurally for it has not been exposed to the hardships of nature.


Mountain material refers to those jades which have been mined directly from the mountainside; the raw blocks exhibit a variety of sizes and they have distinctive edges and corners. Due to the fact that they have not been subjected to the cruel natural selection processes of nature, the quality varies considerably. Most of them are not as fine and smooth as Seed Jade or Shanliushui jade.

In addition to the above three different kinds of Hetian Jade, there is another type, produced in the Gobi, referred to as Gobi Jade. This kind of Hetian Jade has gone through years of exposure to the elements. The surface becomes rough and uneven, yet it still exhibits a shiny, smooth and relatively hard quality.

Regarding Hetian Jade, most people are probably more familiar with Suet Jade, which is, in fact, the top-quality white seed jade. In recent year, due to over-mining of Hetian Jade, the reserves are becoming depleted. It had become increasingly difficult to find Suet Jade and it is no longer easy to find large pieces of high-grade white seed jade.


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