Qamdo Prefecture is rich in natural resources. The Yulong porphyry copper mine in Jomda County, less than 200 km east of Qamdo is among the largest high-grade copper fields in China, with an initial verified reserve of 6.5 million tons, with sizable reserves of coexisting iron, silver and molybdenum. At an altitude of about 5,000 m above sea level, the mine is the world’s highest copper producer.
The extensive forests in the Qamdo area offer a rich variety of products, such as apples, pears and peaches in Chagyab and Baxoi counties, as well as walnuts, grapes and pomegranates elsewhere. The area is also famous for its wide variety of edible mushrooms. In addition to the common types, there are more valuable types, including hedgehog hudnum, pine mushrooms, scaly tooth and morels, which enjoy fame at home and abroad. The pine mushroom, in particular, shows an especially strong anti-mutation ability, which enabled it to become the only plant to survive the nuclear radiation resulting from the atomic bomb explosion in Japan during the Second World War. Anti-carcinogenic drugs ruade of pine mushroom extract are popular in Japan and Southeast Asia while pine mushrooms as health food having anti-cancer effects also sell well in Japan. Pine mushrooms grow in large quantities in the forests of alpine oak, in southern Qamdo and the contiguous Baima Snow Mountains in northwest Yunnan Province. The July-September rainy season each year is the picking season, when local people flock to the forests, and camp out there, picking mushrooms day and night. Trucks carry the fresh mushrooms to the nearby Zhongdian Airport for direct air shipment to Japan.
In addition, the Qamdo area boasts 1,200 kinds of medicinal herbs, of which musk, Chinese caterpillar fungus, bulb of fritillary, bezoar and snow lotus, as well as pilose antlers, are exported in large quantities and become an important source of income for the local people. There are more than 600 kinds of wild animals in the local forests and pastures. Among those listed as wildlife under state protection, first and second class, are Biet’s monkey (Yunnan golden monkey), serow, sambar, Thorad’s deer (white-lipped deer), Moschus berezovskii, lesser panda, white-bellied pheasant, Tibetan eared pheasant, and a number of other pheasants. Quite a few of them are native only to the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. For example, Biet’s monkey, one of the three subspecies native to China, is a rare animal referred to as China’s “second national treasure” after the giant panda. There are four subspecies of golden monkeys – the Vietnamese golden monkey, and the Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan golden monkeys – that are native to China. They are also listed in the global data book of animals on the brink of extinction. The Yunnan golden monkey was identified for the first time by a French zoologist in 1897. There were no further reports of sightings of this animal until 1962, when eight hides of Yunnan golden monkeys were collected in Deqen, Yunnan, confirming the continued existence of this rare animal in the Hengduan Mountains.