Previously classified data to spur private investment: expert
One of China's newly formed ministries, the Ministry of Natural Resources, has uploaded to a public database a massive amount of previously classified Chinese geological information, including estimates of mineral reserves and hydrogeology.
It is the first time the one-month-old ministry has released to the public geological information, indicating the government's ongoing commitment to further opening up various sectors.
The ministry was created after an institutional restructuring plan proposed by the State Council was passed at the National People's Congress in early March. The new ministry's responsibilities include overseeing the development and protection of China's natural resources, setting up and implementing a land use system, and establishing parameters for the paid use of natural resources, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Geological data are significant and fundamental reference information for mineral exploration, engineering, construction and earthquake relief work, and they are important for economic and social development, said experts.
A key set of data released to the public shows China's huge volume of shale gas reserves, which are estimated to be 31 trillion cubic meters, approximately equal to that of the U.S. Data also revealed shale gas exploration is currently underway in a number of provinces, including Sichuan and Hunan.
"The U.S. has become a major energy exporter after its 'shale gas revolution,' so the release of China's shale gas reserve is intended to encourage more participation and investment in the research for shale gas exploitation and utilization technology," Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Due to the slump in international crude oil prices, Chinese nongovernmental capital has little motivation to invest in the research of shale gas mining, said Lin, adding that considering China's huge shale gas reserves the country should develop the ability to effectively exploit and use it.
"It would exert pressure on the current US monopoly position in shale gas mining and offer China more influence and even pricing power in the future global energy market," he said.
Shale gas can also help China reduce its dependency on energy imports, help solve air pollution problems and boost the transition to a low-carbon economy.
"Along with making the data public, the government should offer incentives such as subsidies and tax breaks to encourage investment," said Lin.
The ministry also released geological information on existing and planned new urban areas, including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Yangtze River Delta and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao greater bay area.
The newly released information and data are accessible from the website of the National Geological Archives of China.
The website says there are 169,609 open files in the online archives.
Some 30 to 50 percent of the files had been classified, which was a major obstacle for the non-governmental sector that needs access to the geological information and data.
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The ministry's declassification of the data will allow companies, NGOs and ordinary people to gain a clear picture of the country's energy resources and geology, the Economic Daily reported.