Tibetan Copper Mine to Tap China's Largest Proven Reserve

April 7, 2005

Jin Shixun, Deputy Director of the Tibet Development and Reform Commission, announced April 6 that the government plans to open a copper mine tapping China's largest proven reserve near Yulong township in Jiangda (Jomda) county in the northeastern tip of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The location of the mine in Yulong township has proven reserves of 6.5 million tons, according to a Xinhua report on April 7, 2005. Deputy Director Jin said that construction is scheduled to commence in September 2005, with production starting within three years.

Article 9 of China's constitution confers on the central government ownership of natural resources, including forests, minerals, and hydrocarbons. State ownership of natural resources is a key factor driving the Great Western Development campaign (Xibu da kaifa). Former President Jiang Zemin launched the campaign in 1999 to accelerate economic development in a 12-province region stretching from Guangxi to Xinjiang. State exploitation of natural resources in Tibetan areas has attracted complaints from some Tibetans, who assert that Tibetan communities have little influence on the projects and receive few benefits. Instead, they say, Tibetans suffer hardships caused by rapid social and economic changes, and by damage to the environment.

Jomda county's population is currently almost entirely Tibetan, according to official Chinese statistics. The total recorded population rose from 60,000 in the 1990 census to 69,000 in the 2000 census. The census tabulated only 400 non-Tibetans in 1990, nearly all of them Chinese. By 2000 that figure had risen to about 1,000. Analysts have noted that Chinese population rises in Tibetan areas when employment and business opportunities become available.