China on Monday defended its rights to carry out large-scale mining projects in a mineral-rich Tibetan county near the Arunachal Pradesh border.

Beijing’s assertion were in response to questions about a report published in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, which claimed that the country has found huge deposits of gold, silver and other precious metals, valued at nearly $60 billion, in Lhunze county. The remote, mineral-rich Tibetan county is located very close to the Arunachal Pradesh border.

“I have noted the report mentioned by you. The area mentioned by the report totally belongs to China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a press briefing in Beijing on Monday, PTI reported. “China conducts regular geological and scientific research on its own territory. It is completely within China’s sovereignty.”

Lu added: “China always attaches importance to protecting ecological environment. We hope relevant media can refrain from hyping up based on groundless report.”

China claims the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory and calls it South Tibet. It had renamed six places in the state in April 2017 after lodging protests with India over the Dalai Lama’s visit to the North Eastern state. It has also protested against the visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, claiming that their trips to the state were not conducive to the region’s “tranquility and peace”.

Quoting anonymous sources, the South China Morning Post said: “The mines are part of an ambitious plan by Beijing to reclaim South Tibet, a sizeable chunk of disputed territory currently under Indian control. China’s moves to lay claim to the region’s natural resources while rapidly building up infrastructure could turn it into ‘another South China Sea’.”

In response to this, Lu said: “I can tell you that China’s position on the India-China boundary is consistent and clear cut. China never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh.”