US blocks use of mapping technology in China

Monday, April 4, 2005

"They can dictate where we can and can't use it," a BHP spokeswoman said.

The United States has blocked the use of its advanced technology for mapping mineral deposits in China, according to Australian mining operation BHP Billiton (BHP).

"They can dictate where we can and can't use it," a BHP spokeswoman said.

The Australian first reported the decision last week, after Clinton Dines, the chief of BHP's Chinese operations, told analysts about the U.S. Navy's decision. BHP confirmed this story to The New York Times in Melbourne last Friday.

The U.S. maintains a list of munitions which are prohibited from being exported to China. Pentagon spokewoman Lt. Col. Tracy O'Grady-Walsh confirmed that the Falcon system was on the list of prohibited munitions and that it could not be exported for use in China without a waiver from the President. The ban has been in place since the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989.

The Falcon system, used by BHP under a special license from the U.S. Navy, is based upon American nuclear-submarine technology. Technically described as an "airborne gravity gradiometer", the Falcon system has been adapted by BHP to explore for a broad range of minerals underground. BHP has used the system since 2000. At the time, a BHP executive described the system as "the holy grail of the exploration industry."

BHP earns 10 percent of its revenue from sales to China.