Homes and farmland swallowed by subsidence in coal mining regions

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/13 17:32:06

A farmer works near a coal-fired power plant in Huainan, Anhui Province. Photo: Stamlee

A farmer works near a coal-fired power plant in Huainan, Anhui Province. Photo: Stamlee

Some people in Dali village, Huainan push a tricycle across a bumpy road. Dali village was once home to 200 households, but many have left as their land has been swallowed by the ponds formed by mining-related subsidence. Photo: Stamlee

Some people in Dali village, Huainan push a tricycle across a bumpy road. Dali village was once home to 200 households, but many have left as their land has been swallowed by the ponds formed by mining-related subsidence. Photo: Stamlee

Some people who remain in Dali fight over a grain-sunning spot. Photo: Stamlee

Some people who remain in Dali fight over a grain-sunning spot. Photo: Stamlee

Houses are swallowed by encroaching ponds in Huainan. Photo: Stamlee

Houses are swallowed by encroaching ponds in Huainan. Photo: Stamlee

Mountains gutted by coal mining in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province. Photo: Stamlee

Mountains gutted by coal mining in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province. Photo: Stamlee

Coal miners, villagers and sheep vie for living space in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province. Photo: Stamlee

Coal miners, villagers and sheep vie for living space in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province. Photo: Stamlee

Coal has been the fire in the furnace of China's economic growth, but has brought immense damage to the country's environment and health. Mining on a gigantic scale has lead to massive soil subsidence and mountains being stripped naked.

According to a report released in 2014 by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental advocacy group, coal consumption killed 670,000 people in 2012, and accounted for as much as 60 percent of the PM 2.5 particles - which can lodge themselves deeper in the lungs than most pollutants - in China's air.

As this century dawned, the coal industry entered a golden era of profits in China, attracting a river of investment.

In coal-rich Xinzhou, North China's Shanxi Province, many villagers flooded into small coal mine exploitation. Indiscriminate mining over the course of just a few years has almost destroyed its environment.

Coal mining has led a total of 3,000 square kilometers of Shanxi to subside, an area twice the size of Beijing's six central districts. Helping locals affected by this disaster and reclaiming this land has become a great challenge to the province.

In Huainan, Anhui Province, the largest coal production base in East China, many villages and the arable land used by generations of farmers have also disappeared due to subsidence caused by mining.

Most of Huainan's villagers affected have moved to cities, but some are reluctant to leave. It's hard for them to completely say farewell to farming. In addition, they are worried that the cost of living in cities will be more expensive than growing crops and vegetables on their own land.

But their time is running out, as the ponds that have filled the holes left by subsidence are expanding daily and are swallowing more and more homes.

China is now the largest producer and consumer of coal in the world. But thanks to the government's promotion of clean energy, coal now only supplies 62 percent of China's energy needs, down from 70 percent in 2010, according to the China Electric Power News.
Newspaper headline: Home of mine


Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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