“China’s coal rush leaves three million living on the edge”

From Malcolm Moore at the Telegraph, a story about one of the costs of reliance on coal:

In the dust-blown mountains of China’s coal belt, locals have lived for years with choking clouds of soot and the continual roar of mines that never sleep, digging for 24 hours a day. Now they face being buried alive as China tries to extract every last nugget of coal from beneath them.

Shanxi Huang Jia Po is a village on the edge. For centuries, 500 farmers have lived here, carving stepped fields into the side of their mountain and planting corn, marrows and aubergines in the fertile yellow soil that covers Shanxi province.

But the children of the farmers will have to live somewhere else, because it is only a matter of time before the village falls into the honeycomb of mining tunnels below. Standing in his courtyard, Lu Linhu points to a 30ft deep hole that has opened up in the cement outside his front door. Behind him, wide cracks have appeared in the walls and ceiling of his bedroom. The 38-year-old Mr Lu, like many other villagers, has used gaudy posters to cover the holes and ease his state of mind.

“We cannot really sleep properly any more,” he said. “At night, we can feel the shaking of the ground when they use dynamite in the mine. And when it rains, the water comes flooding in through the cracks.

The local government reported earlier this year that excessive mining had made an area of 8,000 square miles, roughly the size of Wales, unstable and dangerous. But in the trade-off between the millions of peasants who live here and China’s booming economy, there was likely to be only one winner. At Liulin, 94 families have already had to abandon their homes and move down the mountain after their farmland sheared away beneath them. Soon, they will have to abandon their new homes as well.

Li Lianji, the former head of coal industry research at Shanxi’s Academy of Science, said: “The problem is that Shanxi has soft soil.

“It is difficult to calculate exactly how many areas have been hollowed out, but wherever there is a coal mine, the villagers nearby will definitely have been affected. The only solution is to fill up the mines after digging, but that doubles the cost. And at the moment, as we build the economy, China cannot afford for coal to double in price.”

And here comes my skepticism again- in this country, with all this manpower, they can’t find a way to fill the mines without doubling the price? ‘Coal mine owner’ has the same ring ‘oil baron’ does in America- I feel like they could figure out some way to mitigate some of this, if they were so inclined.

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Filed under environment, forced relocation, pollution

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