Xinjiang's landscape is composed of five major components, including the three large mountains of Altay, Tianshan, and Kunlun and the two great basins of Junggar and Tarim. It’s said to be a place of “treasure on every mountain, oil in every basin”.
The three large mountains are all mountains of treasures and abundant in gold, jewels and precious metals. 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. Since there is a large gold deposit and no inhabitants, illegal mining is frequently reported.
The two basins are really treasure bowls and abound in oil, natural gas, sylvite, mirabilite, vermiculite and bentonite, which are of high economic value and a large amount of wealth given by the nature.
Over millions of years the geological movements of mountains and basins have produced many large mineral lodes in mountains and deposited large quantities of precious mineral reserves.
With gold mountains and treasure basins Xinjiang’s mining prospect is universally considered cheerful.
Xinjiang is quite large in geographical size. Many regions haven’t conduct detailed investigation on mineral resources, and some are even never touched. But those already proven resources can clearly show that Xinjiang is a mineral abundance zone.
Xinjiang has good mineralization conditions and a large gross amount of resources. Prospective mines mainly include petroleum, natural gas, coal, gold, copper, nickel, lead, zinc, asbestos, salts, bentonite, limestone and vermiculite etc.
Mineral resources are widely distributed here 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.
Xinjiang has a complete ore deposit. There are altogether 171 known ores in China, 138 of which are found in Xinjiang. Among them are seven energy minerals, forty-two metal minerals, seventy non-metallic minerals and three underground water resources. It’s rare in China and not quite common in the world for a provincial region to have so many ores distributed in such a well-coordinated way.
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.
Ores are of good quality and there are many quality bonanzas. For instance, the proven reserve of iron-rich ores in Xinjiang account for one quarter of the country’s gross reserve. The high grade of Ashele copper mine and Kalatongke copper-nickel ore is so rare in the country. The recently discovered Tuwu copper mine is expected to be built as a giant open-pit copper mine.
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.
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.
Since ancient times, Xinjiang is known for gold mine and 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.
From the geological structure and metallogenic characteristics, Xinjiang is with tremendous potential for the exploitation of the region's mineral resources. Some conducted geological studies and surveys also found large-scale multi-type prospective mineralization belts. In the western region, Xinjiang is the only provincial region that has large reserves of mineral resources with full variety of ores and good accessories.
Mineral resources not only directly provide mineral products for market needs, but also stimulate the rise of many industry chains like energy, chemical, metallurgical and building material industries. For example, coals can not only be used in energy industry for power generation, coking, gas and synthetic crude oil, but also to produce fine chemicals like dopes, perfume, chemical reagents and surfactants. Besides used as heat protection, thermal insulation and sound absorbing materials, vermiculite can also be used to produce latex mat, elastic heat resistant plate, refractory coating mixture, water paint compounds, wastewater treatment coagulants and inorganic perfume odorants. Bentonite finds wide use in petroleum, metallurgy, casting, paper making, construction materials, textile, pharmaceutical, food and other industrial sectors.
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. After half a century, Xinjiang has once again demonstrated a favorable mining development pattern.
It can be predicted that with the implementation of transform strategy for advantageous resources, different minerals, including black minerals like oil, natural gas, coal, iron, chromium and vermiculite, yellow minerals represented by copper, nickel and gold, and white minerals represented by sylvite, sodium salt, mirabilite, cement limestone, asbestos and bentonite, will blossom in radiant brilliance and promote Xinjiang to be China’s successive base of oil, natural gas, coal, copper and nickel, chemicals, construction materials and other mining industries.
The prospect can be clearly seen from the angle of economic development.