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China says no mining planned in Antarctica

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China sought to dispel concerns about its ambitions in mineral-rich Antarctica on Monday, with an official saying Beijing has no plans to start mining in the vast continent.

China’s expanding activities in polar regions is a focal point as Beijing hosts the annual meeting of the Antarctic Treaty for the first time.

Some 400 delegates from 42 countries and 10 international bodies were attending the forum, which kicked off Monday and ends June 1.

“There is still a gap between the goal of peaceful development of Antarctica’s resources and our understanding of Antarctica,” Lin Shanqing, deputy head of the State Oceanic Administration, told reporters on the sidelines of the forum.

Lin did not answer a question on what he meant by peaceful resource development but he stressed that China’s Antarctic expeditions “focus on boosting our understanding of the Antarctic and to better conserve the Antarctic environment.”

“According to my knowledge, China has made no plans for mining activity in Antarctica,” Lin added.

Experts have raised concerns that China harbours a long-term goal of extracting resources from the continent, which the Antarctic Treaty currently forbids.

However, a protocol of the treaty forbidding raw material removal activity from the continent comes into review in 2048.

“2048 seems like a long way away, but … there have been concerns raised that Beijing is pursuing a long-term ‘hedging’ strategy in case the continent is thrown open to resource development, including mining and oil and gas drilling, in the future,” Marc Lanteigne, lecturer on Chinese foreign policy at Massey University, told AFP.

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