By 2015, China will need half world’s re­sources

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WITHIN a decade China’s boom­ing econ­omy will be con­sum­ing more than half of the world’s key re­sources, ac­cord­ing to Rio Tinto. The rapid in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion of China’s econ­omy means that this con­sump­tion is likely to lead to clashes with other coun­tries.

Rio Tinto, the world’s sec­ond-largest miner, said last week that China al­ready ac­counted for 47 per cent of all iron ore con­sump­tion, 32 per cent of alu­minium and 25 per cent of cop­per.

Tom Al­banese, Rio’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, has pre­dicted that within the next cou­ple of years this will move to 58 per cent of all iron ore, 45 per cent of alu­minium and a third of all cop­per. Even with the as­sump­tion that the cur­rent growth in­ten­sity will slow, we are look­ing at China con­sum­ing a higher per­cent­age of global sup­ply,’’ he said.

Vivek Tulpule, Rio’s chief econ­o­mist, said that with China likely to con­sume more than half of the world’s key re­sources within a decade, po­lit­i­cal con­cerns would be raised as the coun­try seeks to con­trol ac­cess.

In 1990 China ac­counted for only about 5 per cent of all cop­per de­mand, and 3 per cent of alu­minium and iron ore. Now the coun­try is al­ready the largest buyer of nickel, cop­per, alu­minium, steel, coal and iron ore. Only in oil does it lag, com­ing sec­ond to the US.

By 2015, China will be con­sum­ing nearly a bil­lion tonnes of iron ore a year. To meet this de­mand, large min­ing com­pa­nies are ramp­ing up pro­duc­tion in ar­eas such as West­ern Aus­tralia’s Pil­bara re­gion, which is ge­o­graph­i­cally one of the clos­est ore de­posits to China.

Rio Tinto ex­pects to in­crease its pro­duc­tion in the Pil­bara from 160 mil­lion tonnes a year to 320 mil­lion by 2013. BHP Bil­li­ton, the world’s largest miner, hopes to achieve 300 mil­lion tonnes by 2015. Tulpule said: The US’s con­sump­tion of the key met­als has been go­ing back­wards while China has con­tin­ued to grow. Its share of global de­mand will con­tinue to rise un­til about 2020 when other economies like In­dia start to chal­lenge.’’ The Times

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