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Illegal mining causing Great Wall to disappear

(Shanghai Daily)

10:47, October 14, 2011

Many sections of the "wild Great Wall" in north China's Hebei Province have been damaged or disappeared completely due to illegal mining.

The 150-kilometer stretch of the Great Wall in Laiyuan County was constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Unlike the typical landmark tourist attraction in Beijing, the wild Great Wall has not been renovated but instead left untouched as an archeological site.

But illegal mining has been widespread along the wild Great Wall in Laiyuan - an area rich in metals such as nickel and copper - causing mountainsides to collapse and damage the wall, People's Daily reported yesterday.

A study in Hebei found that more than 80 percent of the wild Great Wall there was in a poor state or had disappeared altogether.

Mountains around the Great Wall are riddled with holes dug by illegal mining companies. Explosives used to blast open mountainsides have further damaged the wall.

In addition to a lack of funds and personnel, local heritage protection authorities say they are also hindered in their efforts as they are not authorized to crack down on illegal mining activities.

"We have no idea how many companies are mining along the wild Great Wall," Guo Jianyong, an engineer with a research institute for ancient buildings in Hebei, told People's Daily.

Guo said the heritage protection authorities should be involved in the approval of mining projects and urged for more resources to be allocated to better protect the wild Great Wall.

Unregulated tour groups and infrastructure projects have also damaged the wild Great Wall, Meng Qi, deputy head of the Hebei inspection team, told the newspaper.

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