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Land reclamation boosts rehabilitation of mining areas


09:31, July 21, 2013

GUIYANG, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Land reclamation is helping reverse the environmental costs exacted by years of mining in China's "mercury capital," located in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

Li Laidi, a retiree from the mercury mine located in Wanshan District, Tongren City, remembers the days of mined-out zones collapsing here and there, as well as the landslides that resulted from mine slag during the rainy season, which destroyed one-third of the area's arable land.

Now, however, the retiree is seeing changes taking place, with ecological industrial parks recycling mercury waste, potassium resources being built up and former wastelands getting replanted with vegetation.

Wanshan is a prime example of how China is transforming its wastelands in mining areas.

The nationwide reclamation rate has climbed from 2 percent in the 1980s to 25 percent on the heels of technological advances.

Wu Haiyang, director of the land reclamation center with the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR), said the nation's 112,300 mines have been gnawing away at arable land at a rate of 3 million mu (about 200,000 hectares) annually.

"Arable land that has been damaged by all kinds of mining make up over 60 percent of overall ruined land, while wastelands are the main reasons behind soil contamination, environmental degradation and the loss of biological diversity," Wu said at an ecological forum held in Guizhou from July 19 to 21.

With these issues in mind, the State Council, China's cabinet, approved the national Land Restoration Plan 2011-2015 in March 2012, in which the nationwide land reclamation ratio is expected to reach 35 percent of land damaged in the course of production or other historical factors.

The report to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) emphasized the importance of ecological progress and advanced the building of a "beautiful" China in the country's overall development plan.

Lu Yaoru, an academician from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the specific reclamation measures should include farmland cultivation and tree-planting, and more efforts should be made in ecological restoration.

However, the path is not always smooth.

Statistics from the MLR suggest that by the end of 2009, discarded mines covering more than 100 million mu had not yet been reclaimed.

The combination of rapid urbanization and industrialization has also added difficulties to the efforts, Lu said.

"Lack of supervision and capital in implementing the regulation resulted in the fact that some reclamation efforts remain up in the air," according to Lu.

For Zhang Shihe, CEO of Guizhou Panjiang Holdings Ltd., the most critical step would be for the government and enterprises to stop simply cleaning up the aftermath of the mining process, and take precautions during the mining process instead.

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