China Begins Mining in Himalayas May Create a New Military Flashpoint with India

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The border of China and India are a disputed one where China has started large-scale mining operations on its side in the Himalaya areas. The area is a huge trove of gold, silver and other precious minerals which are valued nearly US$60 billion.

Due to concerns about environmental damage of the world’s highest mountain range, the mining in the area is limited. Now, the Chinese governments heavily invests on the unprecedented scale of the new mines. These mines belong to an ambitious plan by Beijing to reclaim South Tibet which is a sizeable chunk of disputed territory currently under the control of India.

People familiar to the project said, China’s moves to lay claim to the natural resources of the area while rapidly building up infrastructure could turn it into another South China Sea.

Nearly 60 years ago, China took Lhunze county, a military stronghold from India and under this area, most of the precious minerals which are used to make hi-tech products are hidden.

Locals have regurgitated this area so fast that local government officials can not even give a precise count to the current population. Heavy, deep tunnels have been opened in the mountains with a military collision line, which can load thousands of tonnes of ore with roads through every village and can be delivered daily by the truck.

Also, the communication networks and extensive power lines have been installed in this area. The construction is under way on an airport that can handle passenger jets.

By the end of last year, the level of mining activity in Lhunze had exceeded all other areas of Tibet. Government statistics have shown that annual gross domestic product growth has gone up to 20 per cent, infrastructure investment doubled since 2016 and the average income of the local residents has almost tripled since the pre-mining boom days.

President Xi Jinping highlighted Beijing’s claim to the region in a letter to a family in Lhunze which was published in the state media. The President rarely responds to correspondence with the public, and when he usually has a reason. Moreover, Xi thanked the father and his two daughters for their loyalty and contribution in China, and also urged the people of the region to establish the roots to develop the area for national interest.

The Himalaya range which has been stretching across five countries namely India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan and Nepal have seen many deadly conflicts arising from border disputes. Due to the world’s highest mountain range, there is a  possibility of another South China Sea and the recent findings pointing to the value of the buried minerals.

A professor at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing and the lead scientist for a Beijing-funded northern Himalayan minerals survey named Zheng Youye said told to the South China Morning Post that a series of discoveries in recent years put the potential value of ores under Lhunze and the nearby area at 370 billion yuan (US$58 billion), “This is just a preliminary estimate. More surveys are under way.”

Chinese are developing a special technique as the traditional methods have failed to accurately detect and locate exploitable reserves in the unique terrain, which abounds in the magma and hot springs essential to the formation of mineral deposits.

In the war of 1960 against India, China conquered South Tibet. To this the scientists said, “But our troops had to retreat quickly because we had no people there to hold the land.”

Now with this new mining work, the population of China near the Himalayas would increase significantly. Scientist Zheng said, “This is similar to what has happened in the South China Sea.” Beijing has claimed the majority of its water by building artificial islands and increasing naval activity.