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Chinese miners spend less on exploration; trade in mining licenses heats up

Miningcompanies in China reduced their spending on minerals exploration in 2015, but havebecome more interested in securing mining licenses at a time when the authoritiesare slowing the pace ofgranting new licenses to curb capacity expansion, latest official data shows.

A totalof 32.61 billion Chinese yuan was invested in exploration programs in China in 2015,down 19.0% from the 40.27 billion yuan recorded in 2014, according to the annualresources report published by the country's Ministry of Land and Resources in April.

Investmentsin acquiring exploration licenses also declined in 2015. Companies in China paida total of 1.37 billion yuan to acquire 948 exploration licenses in 2015, down 77%and 25.4%, respectively, from a year ago.

The numberof mining licenses that changed hands in 2015 increased 8.6% year over year to 2,524,with total price rising 39.6% to 8.78 billion yuan.

The governmentgranted 948 exploration licenses in 2015, down from the 1,270 posted in 2014 and1,587 in 2013. A total of 2,524 mining licenses were granted in 2015, up from 2,326in 2014.

Whilespending on exploration has fallen, however, the country's proven reserves of coaland iron ore increased by 37.54 billion tonnes and 1.19 billion tonnes, respectively,in 2015.

Meanwhile,proven reserves in copper, lead, zinc and gold increased by 2.3 million tonnes,4.3 million tonnes, 5.6 million tonnes and 1,307 tonnes, respectively.

The lowprice environment also hit the country's production in 2015, with output of coaland crude steel reaching 3.75 billion tonnes and 800 million tonnes, down 3.3% and2.2%, respectively, from a year ago.

Goldoutput slipped 0.4% to 450.1 tonnes, while the combined output of 10 nonferrousmetals increased 6.8% year over year to about 51.6 million tonnes.

The ministrysaid it saw less external trading activities on minerals in 2015. The total importand export value of minerals was US$833.80 billion in 2015, down 23.6% from a yearago.

Importsof iron ore, copper and bauxite continued to increase in 2015 while imports of coaland nickel declined significantly.

The countryimported 952.7 million tonnes of iron ore, 13.29 million tonnes of copper, and 55.82million tonnes of bauxite in 2015, up 2%, 12.5% and 53.9%, respectively, from ayear ago.

Importsof coal and nickel reached 204.1 million tonnes and 35.3 million tonnes, down 29.9%and 26.1%, respectively.

As of May 5, US$1 was equivalentto 6.50 Chinese yuan.