China Tibet Rail

Economists, Business experts, critics were wondering about the reasons that motivated China to spend a colossal $3.7 billion on the Tibet railway. At least one of the secret reasons has now tumbled out. Chinese geologists have disclosed having found 16 large copper, lead, zinc, iron ore and, possibly, crude oil deposits along the Qinghai Tibet railway. The deposits too reduce China’s dependence on minerals from several countries, including India.

Critics had questioned China’s claim that development of Tibet was the sole purpose behind the investment, which is not likely to be realized through income from passenger traffic. Some of the reasons cited were Beijing need to integrate Tibet with the Chinese mainland and improve military capabilities along the Himalayan border touching India, Nepal and Myanmar.

The deposits are expected to yield 18 million tons of copper and 10 million tons of lead and zinc, announced the China geological Survey. China is starved of mineral resources to feed its burgeoning industry and spends several billion dollars a year on imports.

Chinese steel mills are heavily dependent on imported Iron ore, a large portion of which is sent from India. In fact, iron ore is the most important export from India accounting for more than 50% of Indian exports to China. The CGS has now announced that it has found estimated reserves of 760 million tones of high grade iron ore along the rail line in the Kunglun mountains on the Western Qinghai Tibet plateau and the Southern Xinjiang Uiighur autonomous region.

Though it was known that China has been prospecting for minerals in Tibet, the nature and size of mineral deposits was largely unknown. This makes the latest revelation by China Geological Survey astonishing.

Lack of resources has become a bottleneck for the economy. This discovery will alleviate the mounting resources pressure China is facing said a top official of CGS. Geologists have also found signs of potentially important crude oil reserves in the Qiangtang basin of the Qinghai Tibet Plateau although it remains to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, the Qinghai Tibet railway authorities have announced plans to create feeder lines to link Tibet’s capital of Lhasa with Xigaze, a major Tibetan city some 280 km to Lhasa’s southwest.


Tibet has significant deposits of oil, coal, borax, quartz, graphite, manganese, gold, iron, copper, lead, zinc and uranium. Approximately 40% of China’s mineral resources are in Tibet.


The railway line will lead to extensive damage of water-bodies, particularly the Yangtse, Salween and Mekong rivers. Tibetans are worried about the impact of the hydro-electric project at Yamdrok Tso, a scared lake between Lhasa and Shigatse. China plans to build dozens of hydro-electric dams across Tibet’s rivers.


An estimated 160 land-based BS4 nuclear missiles are located along the line from Xining to Gormo. The railway will enable China to move the missiles and deploy troops quickly.


The railway will enable large number of Han Chinese settlers to be transported into Tibet.