Restoring mining region allows for green economic benefits

Updated: 2017-11-10

  After shutting down all the local coal mines, Gaokeng town is now working on environmental restoration and development by transforming the former coal-focused region into an ecology preservation base, according to local residents and officials.

  Located in eastern Pingxiang, a resource-exhausted city in Jiangxi-province, Gaokeng was home to over 400 coal mine enterprises in the 1970s and 1980s.

  They exploited the mineral resources in a disorderly manner, resulting in sinkholes, environmental pollution and safety hazards.

  "In the past, tens of thousands of square meters of mountains were dug out for their minerals and the green vegetation almost disappeared," said an official of Wangjiayuan village, Gaokeng town.

  "The surrounding foundations of the village sank rapidly. Trees four meters high fell underground in a few days," said Luo Youming, a farmer in the village.

  Gaokeng town started closing its collective and private coal mines in accordance with a national policy released in 2001.

  The town has now shut down its last remaining coal mine in response to the call to cut industrial capacity last year.

  Liu Jiashui, Party secretary of Gaokeng town, said, "If the damage caused by the mine exploration remains unmanaged, it will drag on economic development and harm the environment."

  The town has given full play to its mineral resources and natural landscape to develop its ecological economy in recent years. Since 2011, Gaokeng town has transformed its reconstruction model from traditional ecological restoration to multifaceted development that includes ecological protection and tourism development, according to Liu.

  By the end of 2015, the government of Gaokeng town had outlined three targets for the town's layout: industrial development, establishment of a green planting pilot town and ecological agricultural construction.

  Wangjiayuan village has emerged as a national ecological base, transforming from a poverty-stricken region, thanks to its efforts in ecological restoration and eco-tourism construction.

  "It's quite a relief to make money by planting trees where the mines were abandoned," said Wang Fulai, a resident of the village.

  Many types of vegetation have been planted in the village, creating a distinctive pattern by combining agriculture with the countryside.

  The village has also built a themed park through the introduction of science and technology, health, tourism, pensions, creativity, leisure and culture. "The restored mining wasteland is not only beneficial to vegetation but also makes room for photovoltaic power plants," said Liu Yizhong, director of the Party politics office of Gaokeng town. The town set up the Pingxiang photovoltaic power plants project after the last coal mine was closed, bringing benefits to society, the environment and the economy.

  To date, the government of Gaokeng town has attracted total investment of 200 million yuan ($30.12 million) to build the Pingxiang photovoltaic power plant. It became operational last year. There are 73,000 solar panels covering 37.33 hectares of land that formerly housed coal mines, according to Liao Hong, who runs Pingxiang Photovoltaic Power Plants Co. He said the photovoltaic power plants that are already operational have an average annual power generation capacity of 35.12 million kilowatt hours. This saves 7,375 metric tons of standard coal annually, reducing annual sulfur dioxide emissions by 15.64 tons and realizing economic benefits of 21.8 million yuan.

  The town has invited experts, academics and renowned design companies to join in planning the overall development project.

  The aim is to ensure environmental protection as well as agricultural and tourism development. "Gaokeng has achieved progress in industrial economic development and environmental protection.

  "The town should focus more on construction, promoting industrial equipment and the operation environment, and improving people's livelihoods, so the town can transit in the next three years," said Kang Feng, deputy secretary of Pingxiang, Anyuan district.

  Source: China Daily

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