The National Infrastructure of Mineral, Rock and Fossil Resources for Science and Technology: A Brief Introduction

The construction of a national science and technology infrastructure is a vital part of China’s system for fostering scientific innovation, and an important sign of the progress of science and technology in society. This infrastructure is a fundamental support for enhancing the nation’s competitive capacity and ensuring its security. Its construction aims to promote the protection, management and effective sharing of scientific resources, thereby providing abundant high-quality original material for innovative technical activities; and to guarantee ecological well-being and public health, and the security of China’s natural resources and society.

Mineral, rock and fossil specimens and the research findings related to such material are the fruit of the persistent work of collecting, sorting, identifying and analysing carried on by geological professionals. Although various universities, museums, scientific institutes and companies maintain large collections of geological specimens, until now there has been no integrated platform for sharing these resources, for lack of systematic management and agreed descriptive standards. Thus the gathering, sorting, preservation, use and sharing of these specimens and research data is an urgent strategic task for the long-term development of the earth sciences in China.

The National Infrastructure of Mineral, Rock and Fossil Resources for Science and Technology (, founded in 2003, is a significant achievement of the National Science & Technology Infrastructure established by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology. Coordinated by the China University of Geosciences (Beijing), it is the joint effort of seven national-grade mineral, rock and fossil resource conservation agencies, including the Geological Museum of China, the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, the Institute of Mineral Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) and Jilin University. According to the management model adopted, the specimens themselves remain the property of the institutes and are to be preserved by them, while scientific data related to these specimens are released jointly. The infrastructure website offers information on 126,000 rock and mineral specimens of scientific value. In addition to releasing information, it provides a search function for palaeontological fossils, characteristic ore deposits, gemstones and jade, systematic mineralogy and other special geoscience topics, and also links to websites all over the world offering information regarding minerals, rocks and fossils. The website provides services for scientific research, technical innovation, education and public outreach in the earth sciences.

The ultimate goal of the National Infrastructure of Mineral, Rock and Fossil Resources is to build an up-to-date, open, international data centre. The information network will comprise a physical specimen facility, a graphic data library, an image library, a corresponding document collection, etc. Also, the information network will be connected with domestic and foreign data centres, specimen libraries and museums, so that it will have such functions as collecting and keeping information, online searches, and publication of data, providing services for experts in China and abroad wishing to conduct comparative research and in-depth data mining.

We sincerely hope that geological professionals worldwide and the general public will offer their suggestions; we welcome conservation departments and individuals to contribute specimens to support our work.


1. Physical Specimen Resources and Information

● Fossil Specimens

The infrastructure integrates 62,000 specimens of model fossils and typical fossil communities of significant scientific value, including specimens of human fossils in China, typical fauna specimens of the Chengjiang Biota, typical specimens of the Jehol Biota, floral specimens of the western Henan Biota, Guizhou marine reptile specimens, specimens of the Jiayin Upper Cretaceous dinosaur fauna in Heilongjiang, stratigraphic palaeontological specimens typical for China, and the stonework specimens discovered in Zhoukoudian (Beijing), Sanmenxia (Henan), Yuanyang (Hebei), Yimeng (Inner Mongolia), Yuncheng (Shanxi) and western Guizhou.

● Rock Specimens

The infrastructure encompasses 37,000 Chinese and foreign typical rock specimens of significant scientific value, including rocks from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and neighboring areas; the Mesozoic-Cenozoic basalts and mantle xenoliths of East China; specimens of the northern block of the lower crust and upper mantle rock; eclogites from the giant high-pressure and ultra-high-pressure rocks from the eastern Jiangsu-Shandong area through the western Dabie Mountains, Qinling Mountains and Northern Qaidam Basin to the southern Tianshan Range; section specimens of ancient strata in Jixian (Tianjin) and of the Permian-Triassic boundary stratotype Permian limestone in Changxing, Zhejiang; and foreign typical rock specimens.

● Mineral Specimens

A total of 12,000 typical mineral specimens, mostly from China but with some from abroad.

● Ore Specimens

The infrastructure includes 15,000 ore samples from 40 endangered Chinese ore deposits; large, giant and characteristic ore deposits; and more than 80 typical ore deposits.

● Core Specimens

The core specimens in the infrastructure were found in Daqing, 2600 metres underground in the “Songke-1 Well” of a continental drilling project that was part of the 973 Project -- Major Geological Events in the Cretaceous Surface System and Greenhouse Climate Change.

2. Special infrastructure topics

● 12 fossil groups

The biota in Chengjiang, Yunnan; the “Plant Pompeii” in Inner Mongolia; the flora of the western Henan Biota (Yuzhou); the biota of Guanling, Guizhou; vertebrate fauna in the Cretaceous in centre of Jilin; the Jiayin Upper Cretaceous fauna fossils of Heilongjiang; the fish fossils at locality 14 of Zhoukoudian; Peking man in Zhoukoudian; the more recent human fossils in the Upper Cave site in Zhoukoudian; mammoth and coelodont fauna from the Late Pleistocene; the ancient human site in the Nihewan Basin; Jurassic dinosaur fauna from the Zigong area.

Accessible in each case are facts concerning the biota; its research history; the regional geological background; the stratigraphic situation; descriptions of key fossils; the latest research findings; a map of the original environment; a restored fossil map; an index of palaeontological specimens.

● 40 typical ore deposits

The main information for each deposit includes location, the discovery history; the size and grade of the deposit; a diagram of the region’s structure; a regional geological map; an integrated geological map and an ore body distribution map; a brief introduction to the deposit’s geology (tectonic background, formation, structure, magmatic rocks, ore body, minerals, wall rock alteration, ore genesis, testing data); mineral samples from the area.

● 34 gemstone topics

15 presentations of natural gemstones; 8 of natural jade; 3 of natural organic gemstones; a series of 8 lectures on jewels and jade. In each case information about basic properties, colours, the quality evaluation and process evaluation, optimal treatment, synthesis, similar varieties and counterfeits, origin, markets, maintenance, the appreciation of famous examples is provided.

● 1 geoscience project

Dabie Mountains National Geopark

● 5 geoscience teaching projects

Basic geographic information; basic geologic information; the lithosphere and tectonics of the Tibetan plateau; the distribution and properties of Chinese eclogites; and the distribution of igneous rock in China.

● 10 geoscience promotion topics

The evolution of life; a palaeontological map; gem appreciation; the water cycle; geological hazards; the geographical landscape of China; the uplift of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau; wetlands—Earth’s “kidneys”; special landforms; getting to know Earth.

3. Database of systematic mineralogy

We have a database of 3011 minerals. Each entry includes information on names (Chinese & English), crystal chemical formula, chemical composition, crystal morphology, java diagram, system, class, symmetrical type, cell parameters, X-ray powder diffraction, crystal structure, colour, luster, transparency, streaks, pleochroism, Mohs hardness, relative density, genetic forms, associated minerals, index of mineral specimens.

4.Standard descriptions of specimens and technical specifications

● 53 descriptions

There are 39 standard descriptions of fossils of ancient humans, birds, fish, insects, trilobites, corals, angiosperms, ferns, pollen, etc.; 2 standards for describing and naming minerals; 7 standard descriptions of volcanic rocks, sedimentary rocks and regional metamorphic rocks; 3 standard descriptions of metal, non-metal and energy ore; 1 standard description of stoneware; 1 standard description of mineral deposits. All the standard descriptions list 35 basic features of the specimens, such as serial numbers, names, production areas, formation ages, geological occurrences, brief descriptions of features, images, and more than 10 specific descriptions.

● 39 technical specifications

Regulations for collecting, classifying and preserving specimens, including minerals, rocks, and fossils of flora, vertebrates and prehistoric humans.

5. Modes and facilities for sharing information

● Services

The infrastructure system provides nine kinds of service, depending on the type of user and resource attributes: 1. Freely open to the public; 2. Borrowing for public purposes; 3. Cooperative research; 4. Trading based on intellectual property rights; 5. Trading resources; 6. Rental; 7. Resource exchange; 8. Open to the public at the collection itself; 9. Access with special permission.

● Facilities

The infrastructure includes up-to-date dust-proof, fire-proof and theft-proof warehouses featuring composite specimen cabinets with temperature and humidity control. It also has professional workplaces equipped with microscopes, computers, and broadband network access to facilitate comparative study by visiting experts and scholars.