China has completed a 374km railway line at a cost of RMB3bn ($476m) to Lop Nur, a dried lake in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

The new rail line will link the major potash production base in the region with the country’s railway network to help tap the area’s undeveloped natural resources.

Construction on the railway line, which stretches from Hami Prefecture on the China-Mongolia border to Lop Nur, started two years ago.

Lopnurpo township deputy party secretary Turghun Abdulla told Xinhua News Agency: "The area along the railway is rich in natural resources, especially leopoldite, to produce potash fertiliser, as well as coal and nonferrous metals, such as copper and gold."

The project was jointly funded by the Chinese Ministry of Railways, the regional government of Xinjiang and a unit of the State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC), a Chinese state-owned company that ownsa potassium fertiliser base in Lop Nur.

The new line will be opened by the end of October 2012 and is expected to have the capacity to transport 30 million tonnes of cargo per year.

Trains on the new line will stop at nine stations before reaching Lop Nur, an area that has around 500 million tonnes of potassium salt deposit.

Lop Nur project deputy chief engineer Li Songyan told the news agency that railway construction was extremely difficult because the weather was harsh and the track had to be laid on a salt-rock base easily eroded by rainfall.

China consumes close to ten million tonnes of potassium salt per year, 70% of which is imported, while it has reserves of around 457 million tonnes.