China Drills Into The "Roof Of The World" To Alleviate Foreign Dependence

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Rory Johnston via,

From copper to iron to oil, China is the world’s leading importer of almost every raw mineral. Wary of the risks this dependence brings, Beijing is looking ever inward to exploit the mineral wealth of its interior, including the politically contentious and technically challenging Tibetan Plateau. The most recent development is a 7-kilometer deep borehole drilled by Chinese resource exploration teams. The exact location of the borehole, the deepest ever drilled at such a high altitude, as well as the companies involved in the exploration are being kept secret.

The Plateau is estimated to contain 30-40 million tons of copper, 40 million tons of lead and zinc, and billions of tons of high-grade iron ore—it is also estimated that the Plateau’s Qiangtang Basin contains upwards of 70 billion barrels of oil, potentially making it the largest such reserve on the planet.  If these estimates are even remotely accurate, the rewards for Beijing will be enormous.

Petroleum and Mineral Deposits of the Tibetan Plateau
 Via Quartz and the Tibetan Plateau Blog

The Tibetan Plateau is the largest and highest plateau on Earth, with an average elevation of more than 4,500 meters above sea level. Mineral extraction faces a series of technical roadblocks if Beijing hopes to move these resources from the interior to the coast for refining and consumption.

"Tibet's altitude and geology make it among the world's most difficult drilling locations. Fragmented [geological] structures, prone to collapse, increase the risks,” said Professor Li Haibing, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Geological Services.

The high altitude makes oxygen scarcity a serious complication for workers, with even light work turning into a strenuous endeavour.  Additionally, the Plateau is located thousands of kilometers from the industrialized coast and suffers a lack of basic infrastructure, let alone the complex framework required for large-scale extraction operations. Due to the technical difficulties of the region, the Tibetan Plateau is one of the last unexplored inland territories on the planet.

But this is not deterring Beijing. While Chinese SOEs have been in the area for over a decade (CNPC began exploring in 1995), there is a new push to see the region developed. Beijing is reviewing a proposal for a new “deep-earth” exploration project that was submitted by some of China’s most prominent geologists. As the name would imply, the project involves drilling more than 10 kilometers into the Plateau in order to obtain samples for study. Even if the samples are promising, development of these resources is going to be technically challenging and China does not have a good track record in this area—it has had difficulty tapping its vast shale gas deposits without the help of Western IOCs.

One point of concern that has been raised is the potential for water contamination. The Plateau is also known as the “water tower of Asia,” feeding many of the regions critical rivers as well as holding 30 percent of China’s freshwater resources. Develop these resources incorrectly, and it could negatively impact hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people.

The Tibetan Plateau may be a mountain of money, but it’s too early to tell. Geological uncertainty, technical difficulty, water vulnerability, and politics all complicate production prospects. As Beijing chases self-sufficiency, we can only hope that they don’t cut corners.

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Bill of Rights's picture

Panic after Chinese city declares tap water toxic - Telegraph

Nearly 2.5 million residents of a major city in west China have been ordered not to drink its tap water after the supply was contaminated with dangerous levels of a carcinogenic substance.

Panic buying of bottled water broke out in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, on Friday after state media announced authorities had "detected excessive levels of benzene in [its] tap water system".

Officials found 200 micrograms of benzene per litre - 20 times the acceptable "national limit" - in samples of the city's water supply, according to reports.

Exposure to benzene, a colourless liquid used to make plastics, lubricants, dyes, detergents and pesticides, has been linked to leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Four chan's picture

it would be ironic if all that oil we have extracted was used by the earth to function in some way, plate lubrication, vibration damping, dielectric. ect and we end up with a result that kills us all. if global warming doesn't do it..

Manthong's picture


“In 2012 the country's rivers pumped more than 17 million tons of pollution into its seas, according to official figures, including 46,000 tons of heavy metals.”


"it's seas"


Geez Louise.. a lot of the rest of us are Fuk ‘d,, or is that Fuku ‘d?

BigJim's picture

I think you'll find Poseidon has enormous respect for national boundaries. This is one of the reasons China is hoping to expand its claims in the China Sea southwards; so it has more ocean to pollute.

Dr. Engali's picture

Actually "its" is being used as a possessive pronoun, therefore the author has it right. "It's" is a contraction for it is.

SafelyGraze's picture

dear chinapeople:

7 km deep?

if you run into some of that abiotic stuff, do us all a favor and don't say anything

bp exxon etc 

Flakmeister's picture

They have drilled deeper than that and found diddly-squat...

PS Did you read your little link outlining the evidence for any extracted oil being consistent with not being biological in orign?

SafelyGraze's picture

thanks for the follow-up

my understanding is that the stakes involved are so very high that it would be imprudent to report a successful find


Bangin7GramRocks's picture

Sarah Barracuda just got sooooooo wet!

Flakmeister's picture

You heart in is in the right place, but oil don't function like that....

Matt's picture

Just raise the safe limit 100-fold, and you'll be 80% under the limit. Pretty simple, really.

BigJim's picture

Worked in Japan, and they're a proper modern 'developed' country.

Jumbotron's picture


If this doesn't speak to Peak Cheap Energy.....nothing does.  If we were SOOOOooooo awashed in easy to extract, relatively clean, light sweet crude, nobody.....not even the Chinese....would even remotely think about doing something so expensive....and quite frankly....stupid.

But...good luck.  Might as well try since we are flooding their economy with our money and manufacturing.  Too bad by the time they even come CLOSE to building the infrastructure to get that messy shit out of the ground....( a MONSTER sized if ).....the World wide economic system will have crashed and re-calibrated to a much less energy intensive position.


Jumbotron's picture

Oh.....and to Bill of Rights.  Thanks for bringing up the benzene thing.  I was surrounded from the time I was born through college years with pesticides and petroleum growing up around cotton plantations in Mississippi.  I even worked out in the fields during high school for an entomoligist checking for the different pests that would plague the cotton plant through its various life stages from tiny shoot to open boll.  Thrips, worms, plant bugs, and boll weevils, you name it. 

From those collections at various points in the various fields, we would then make a report and tell the farmer what he was facing pest wise and what poison, if any, he had to lay down.  We would always be talking to the farmer at the plantations surrounded by different barrels of pesticides which most are petroleum based, oil and diesel drums, kerosene and gasoline....some leaking on the ground.  I got sprayed once or twice directly every year for 3 years by cropdusters.  Not to mention, breathing in defolient.....which was probably Agent Orange early on in the 70's.

No wonder 16 years after that I developed Hodgkins Lymphoma.  It was beaten after about a year of chemo and have been clean ever since....< knock on wood>. 

But yeah.....benzene is a bitch.

Flakmeister's picture

Benzene is frack-tastic....

Yet another reason why we should frack in the NYC watershed....

Doubleguns's picture

There is a safer solution but few are considering it.



Element's picture



Flak is of course completely full of crap once again.


Benzine is a natural constituent of both some ground water aquifers and a normal component of crude oil and abundant in natural gas reservoirs.

Benzene in Groundwater Occurs Infrequently and Determined to be Mainly from Natural Sources
Released: 8/29/2012 1:30:00 PM

And, well, some first principles:

"Benzene is an organic chemical compound with the molecular formula C6H6. Its molecule is composed of 6 carbon atoms joined in a ring, with 1 hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom. Because its molecules contain only carbon and hydrogen atoms, benzene is classed as a hydrocarbon.
Benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil, and is one of the most elementary petrochemicals. Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon and the second [n]-annulene ([6]-annulene), a cyclic hydrocarbon with a continuous pi bond. It is sometimes abbreviated Ph–H. Benzene is a colorless and highly flammable liquid with a sweet smell. It is mainly used as a precursor to heavy chemicals, such as ethylbenzene and cumene, which are produced on a billion kilogram scale. Because it has a high octane number, it is an important component of gasoline, comprising a few percent of its mass. Most non-industrial applications have been limited by benzene's carcinogenicity."

And the benzine you refer to as a frack fluid is the small component that's in the form of some diesel that's occasionally present in a frack fluid, or else is just present due to its natural ambient abundance in hydrocarbon deposits.

But it's such a terrible pollutant, and caused by fracking you say? If it was so bad, and we've been using it profusely since getting on to two centuries ago, then why are we living longer and longer?

Firstly you're dishonest, secondly you're an idiot, and thirdly you're deliberately spreading your warped hyperbolic anti-hydrocarbon disinfo pseudo-science horseshit once more.


How surprising.  :-D

Flakmeister's picture

How about we start fracking in your back yard...

Are you going to volunteer for us?

ebworthen's picture

Are New York or Washington D.C. on the opposite end of the World of that hole?

If so, please keep drilling.

novictim's picture

The Highest Hole to bury the Deepest Debt?

Maybe they will fill the hole with melted gold...sorta like a giant filling in the worlds biggest molar.

rtalcott's picture

The exact location of the borehole, the deepest ever drilled at such a high altitude, as well as the companies involved in the exploration are being kept secret.

Should be easy enough to see with satellite photos.

q99x2's picture

They can't do that. In that area, the Chinese BLM has a rare grasshopper that is on the endangered species list.

youngman's picture

Why not just get the exclusive on the Free Tibet Tshirt sales...that could bring in billions

SmittyinLA's picture

Water they're drilling a water pipe, when done they'll have thousands of miles of downhill hydroelectric potential, it's a brilliant strategy.

And yes people will be pissed at the theft of water.

Prediction, an aliance between Tibet and Islam is to oust chicoms, but not before the project is completed.

Matt's picture

The Chinese are well ahead of the curve, by importing people they made sure the majority will be Han, so if there is a referendum they will vote to stay with China.

DOT's picture

There's that "H" word again..

"...we can only hope that they don’t cut corners."

SilverRhino's picture

With as much material that's piled up into the Plateau that's probably the richest mineral lode on the planet.   

But they'll find a way to fuck it up I'm sure.   

cougar_w's picture

Deep minerals are useless; you can't mine them, unless you plan on using robots or ROV or something. If they want the minerals in Tibet then this story should be about some gigantic new open pit adventure ripping up 6,000 vertical feet of rock for 6 miles in all directions.

Element's picture

All of what they mention, in industrial metals terms, is recoverable from the ocean bottom, without even digging for it, you can just scoop it up if you really want it. There's no lack of any of those metals. The lower the grade you mine the larger the resource base becomes (and what's on the ocean bottom is phenomenally high-grade).

What will occur is what's economic, and what is non-economic* will not make it to the planning stage, let alone development stage, let alone production stage.



* excluding all taxpayer subsidized wind-farms and solar panel boondoggles as these have a special dispensation from the Pope and are not required to ever pay for themselves, justify their general massive failure as base-load supplies, nor provide any return on investment, nor fund their own maintenance, or replacement cost ... but hey it's all good ... it's renewable ... and free!

813kml's picture

Maybe the US can aid mining efforts by dropping a few loads of bunker busters on Mount Everest.

Flakmeister's picture

Just send them to West Virginia for a crash course in mountain top removal...

I Write Code's picture

Actually they were supposed to install a flagpole but got the diagram upside-down, and now are simply afraid to stop and admit it.

SmilinJoeFizzion's picture

Anyone know when the windy city road apple is going to approve the Keystone Pipeline

Flakmeister's picture

Why would you want to approve it? 

SmilinJoeFizzion's picture

I don't know, stupid shit, like jobs, and oil. That kind of stuff

Flakmeister's picture

So how many long term jobs? 

Where do the refined products end up?

Do you think that the refiners will sell domestically at a discount to prevailing global prices?

Repeating mendacious crap from Fox News doesn't make it any truer...

Totentänzerlied's picture

(As that Charles Hugh-Smith guy has been screaming for weeks/months/years,) It appears the low-hanging fruits have indeed been picked.

I wonder how bad the net-energy and EROEI ratios are for these projects?

centerline's picture

If what was needed was just laying on the surface, there really wouldn't be need for drilling in impossible locations, or fracking for that matter, or keeping entire regions destabalized on purpose, or killing people so that pipelines can be pushed through, and so on and so on.

Spitzer's picture

Build a nuclear power plant up there. Done.

Element's picture

lol  we need a guy like you in the Tasmanian Premier's job.

Dr. Engali's picture

I'm pretty sure it's a bad idea to continue poisoning our water sources. Just a thought.

813kml's picture

Not to worry, elites have stocked up on Perrier and Fiji water.

youngman's picture

Just practicing for those Japanese Islands soon to be in China,s hand

cougar_w's picture

Deep holes are usually about science. About answering the question what is down there? Is this drilling about science? If so then what kind of science?

The Russians had the Kola Superdeep borehole in the 70's. There was a really deep oil well (by now, maybe a few). But as a rule these things don't have much commercial use due to the expense.

This is kind of interesting.

What are they expecting to find?

Matt's picture

It would probably be more efficient just to "mine" ghost cities, to get more materials, to build more ghost cities.

cougar_w's picture

You mean like we do in America today? Yes exactly.

Half the streetlights in my neighborhood don't work because people "scavenging" copper have stripped the wire out of them. Stripped it out hot.

We're not even a ghost city, just really lax at every kind of enforcement.

El Vaquero's picture

That kind of shit has been going on for years.  Around here, it's not the street lights, but the wires coming in providing service for businesses that gets stolen, and yes, it's almost always taken when the shit is hot.  IMO, there are some electricians involved in a lot of cases.  Otherwise, there would be a lot more electrocuted people at the theft sites. 

813kml's picture

You should tape a joint to each lightpole so LEOs will start patrolling 24/7.