China "will be a serious player" in the world mineral markets and is seeking technical ties with the United States, an official of the U.S. Bureau of Mines said Tuesday. David Forshey, assistant mining research director, forecasts that China will become a force to be reckoned with if it can harness its mineral resources and improve transportation.
"China is very committed to improving its mining conditions. It has tremendous untapped resources," Mr. Forshey said at the 22nd international conference on safety in mining.The Bureau of Mines is a federal agency responsible for gathering and analyzing international mineral information. A good deal of its work involves coal.
China is pushing for increased coal production in a bid to decrease imports and step up exports. Last year's output was 890 million tons and this is expected to swell to 1.2 billion tons by the end of the century.
Exports are 10 million to 16 million tons a year. China "has the potential for being a major coal-exporting player in the Pacific Rim. How soon this will happen is anyone's guess - but it pays to be prepared," Mr. Forshey said. The government "is working very hard to upgrade its mining technology and equipment, but the process isn't so simple as going out and buying fancy equipment," he said. He disclosed that Chinese officials are interested in forming joint research projects with the Bureau of Mines in areas such as classical mining technology and fire suppression.
Mr. Forshey is attending the conference because the Bureau of Mines has difficulty obtaining quantitative information on the status of China's coal mining. Learning about difficult mining conditions in other countries helps the U.S. industry. "We benefit technically because as mining in the United States progresses, we have to get into more difficult mining conditions," he said. "There aren't a whole lot of different methods in mining, but there are different ways to adopt methods without having to re-invent the wheel."
China's complicated geological conditions in coal seams give rise to many natural and other disasters, a new Ministry of Coal Industry report acknowledges . Spontaneous combustion in coal seams and outbursts of methane are among the most serious in the world.