Xi: Deep Earth sciences key to development

BEIJING: China will need to enhance research into deep Earth sciences to fulfil some of the country’s biggest strategic needs, from finding and utilising underground resources to predicting and mitigating natural disasters, experts said.In a speech addressing China’s top scientists and engineers in late May, President Xi Jinping urged the Chinese scientific community to break new ground in four strategic frontiers: deep space, deep sea, deep Earth and “deep blue”.

“Deep blue” refers to fields related to computer science and information technology, such as cyberspace security and artificial intelligence, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology, while deep Earth consists of geology, mineralogy, seismology, geothermal energy and other sciences related to understanding the Earth’s internal structure and utilising its resources.

Compared with the other three frontiers, deep Earth exploration is a relatively obscure field, given the enormous resources, manpower and technological ingenuity needed to penetrate the Earth’s crust, experts said.

But since the mid-20th century, more countries are now aware of the strategic importance of this field.

Liu Jiaqi, a geophysicist and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said deep Earth sciences are closely related to the ability to tap into Earth’s mineral and energy resources.

They also play a key role in environmental protection and mitigating the risks of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions.“It is a science about supporting and sustaining life on Earth. Without it, we cannot thrive,” he said.

Xu Yigang, a geochemist and a CAS academician, said China attaches such great importance to deep Earth exploration because the country needs to curb its over-reliance on importing iron, copper, nickel, oil and natural gas.

According to the China Geological Survey, China’s geography is estimated to hold a massive amount of mineral deposits at a depth of around 2,000m, including a treasure trove of gold, zinc, antimony and rare earth elements.

But most of China’s mining operations are less than 500m underground, with fewer than 20 mines that can surpass 1,000m. — China Daily/ANN

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