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Virgin forests to be protected from ill effects of mining

By Wang Qian  (China Daily)

10:03, August 17, 2012

While encouraging the development of the mining industry in the Greater Khingan Range, the country's largest virgin forest, local authorities are promising that they will do their best to minimize environmental damage.

Zhou Yaming, deputy director of the Department of Land and Resources of Heilongjiang province, said that by the end of 2016 minerals, including 1 million tons of copper and 150 tons of gold, will be added to the region's total mineable reserves.

"All the mineral exploitation must meet the standards of environmental protection because a virgin forest is a fragile ecosystem," said Chen Xingshi, deputy chief engineer of the Geology and Mineral Resources Exploration Bureau of Heilongjiang province.

The environmental standards were launched by the Ministry of Land and Resources in 2010, which required all mines to meet the demands before 2020.

The requirements include that more than 90 percent of the wastewater from an environmentally friendly mine should be recycled and more than 80 percent of the mining area should be covered by trees.

In addition to the strict thresholds, Chen added, fresh mines in forests will not be dug with a vast open pit, but in a small deep pit to reduce the impact on the environment.

Chen said part of the profits in the mining industry will be used in environmental recovery.

An accurate geological survey will be finished to spot potential mineral belts in the Greater Khingan Range before 2015, according to Zhou.

It is a win-win situation that boosts the local economy and compensates the environment, he added.

"The Greater Khingan Range has two kinds of treasure - strictly protected forests and minerals. If we don't develop the mining industry, the local economy can't grow quickly," said Zhang Hongwei, head of the Inner Mongolia No 6 Geological Survey Institute, adding that environmental protection should be taken into consideration.

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