China has collected samples of combustible ice in the disputed South China Sea which authorities here feel is a major breakthrough that may lead to a global energy revolution.
This is China's first success in mining flammable ice after nearly two decades of research and exploration, Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming said.
China found flammable ice, a kind of natural gas hydrate, in the South China Sea in 2007, state-run Xinhau news agency reported.
International scientific circles have predicted that natural gas hydrate is the best replacement for oil and natural gas.
According to Zhong Ziran, head of the China Geological Survey Bureau, combustible ice is more environmentally friendly and in large reserves.
Mining of combustible ice started in the 1960s, but China began research in 1998.
Trial mining of combustible ice in the Shenhu sea, about 320 kilometers southeast of Zhuhai City in Guangdong, started on March 28.
"Many countries along the Maritime Silk Road have a demand for combustible ice mining," said Qiu Haijun, director of the trial mining commanding headquarters.
"With the advanced technology we could help resolve the energy resource problem and boost economic development and exchanges between countries," Qiu said.