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The research project of the Centre for the first six years is initiated according to the State Five-Year Plan of China and the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative, UN resolution “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and UNESCO’s Medium-Term Strategy (2014-2021). The Sustainable Development Goal 12.2 of the UN 2030 Agenda aims to “by 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources”. Article 51 of Strategic Objectives of the UNESCO Medium-Term Strategy declares that “Building on its experience in leading intergovernmental and international science programmes and bodies and on their global observation capacities, UNESCO will contribute to shaping the research agenda of global and regional scientific cooperation”. The UNESCO Theme of Science for a Sustainable Future states that “Scientific knowledge of the Earth’s history and mineral resources, knowledge of ecosystems and biodiversity, and the interaction of humans with ecosystems are important to help us understand how to manage our planet for a peaceful and sustainable future”.

1. Initiative and Implementation of the international ‘Big Science’ project - Mapping the Chemical Earth

‘Mapping the Chemical Earth’ is an international scientific cooperation programme to map and to document the concentration and distribution of all naturally occurring elements on the Earth. The data will be managed by the Digital Earth software, a tool that will act as a computer-generated virtual globe of geochemical information and allow people to access large geochemical data sets through the Internet for resource management, environmental protection and for providing public-good services. The main tasks of the project are:

(1) The establishment of global geochemical baselines, which will cover one-quarter (¼) of the land surface of the Earth in the first six years.

(2) The establishment of a network of geochemical observatories of the ‘critical zone’ with 100 observation stations.

(3) The assessment of the distribution of geopotential reserves for 50 ore forming elements by using baseline data that will be collected from one-quarter (¼) of the land surface of the Earth in the first six years.

(4) The assessment of environmental contamination status and risk of potential hazardous elements.

(5) The exploration for knowledge of major historical geological events and their geochemical response.

(6) The development of the internet-based ‘Chemical Earth’ platform, providing services to the public with ‘Big Data’ and knowledge of global-scale geochemistry.

2. Compilation of ‘Belt and Road’ and other Geochemical Atlases

The Centre shall conduct win-win cooperation with the ‘Belt and Road’ countries for geochemical mapping for mineral resources and environmental protection. The three tasks to be undertaken in the six-year period are:

(1) China-Mongolia-Russia-Kazakhstan Geochemical Atlas:  A geochemical atlas at a scale of 1:5 million shall be compiled. The Mongolia geochemical atlas at a scale of 1:1 million shall be compiled first, as the project has been completed.

(2) China-Europe Silk Road Geochemical Mapping:  To compile the ‘Belt and Road’ Geochemical Atlas at a scale of 1:5 million; this entails cooperation with Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Serbia on geochemical mapping, and shall include available data from Europe.

(3) ASEAN Geochemical Mapping:  To compile a geochemical atlas at a scale of 1:1 million. The cooperation on geochemical mapping will be implemented in Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.