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From dust to gold: NE Chinese coal city converts abandoned mine pit into racetrack

By Xian Jiangnan, Yasef Calderón Menéndez, Wei Qingcheng, Qiu Yuzhe (People's Daily Online)    16:55, September 02, 2020

It’s late August, and the air is fresh on a windy day in Fuxin. The transformation of this once dusty coal town is in full swing.

In late 2018, an abandoned mine pit in Fuxin was converted into a racetrack, attracting hundreds of racers from around the world. The auto racing industry has put the city on a more sustainable and prosperous path.

Located in northeast China’s Liaoning province, Fuxin, known decades ago for its rich coal resources, was one of the largest coal producers in China in the early 20th century.

While the coal industry had brought the city into a period of soaring economic growth, the ecological environment continued to deteriorate. From 1991, the city’s coal deposits were nearly depleted. Local coal companies declared bankruptcy, workers were laid off. On windy days, the air would become thick with coal dust. From 2014 to 2016, Fuxin’s GDP showed negative growth.

Photo shows the racetrack built in an abandoned mine pit in Xinqiu District of Fuxin, northeast China's Liaoning Province. (People’s Daily Online/Qiu Yuzhe)

“At that time, the city was ‘severely sick’,” said ecological restoration specialist Dr. Jin Yuequn, who noted that the mines had resulted in problems such as landslides, soil erosion and environmental pollution in the city.

Xinqiu district was the first district in Fuxin to start coal mining over 120 years ago. The district has contributed a total of 140 million tons of coal to the country, in the process leaving a mine pit up to 5 kilometers long, 3 kilometers wide and 100 meters deep.

Ecological restoration was no easy task, and how to boost the stagnating economy was a problem that had long troubled the local government. “[Ecological restoration] can be costly, and it is hard to achieve sustainable development without the support of industrial transformation,” said Jin.

After carrying out a field investigation, Jin’s team proposed the racetrack project, as the century-old mining town has a unique landform with towering hills and low-lying mine pits, making it an ideal place for auto racing.

In 2018, a 1.3-kilometer off-road course was built in an abandoned mine pit in Fuxin’s Xinqiu District. So far, the city has successfully held 8 races for off-road vehicles, receiving over 200,000 spectators in total.

“There is no other place in the world that has a racetrack as special as the one built in Fuxin’s abandoned mine pit. It’s so exciting,” one of Jin’s friends was quoted as saying.

An off-road vehicle races at the racetrack in Xinqiu District of Fuxin, northeast China's Liaoning Province. 

The motor racing industry has boosted the economy of the city as well as of surrounding counties, accelerating the development of sectors such as tourism, catering and automobile maintenance.

The resource-depleted town is gradually taking on a new look. Solidifiers and dust suppressants are used to control dust pollution in the racetrack. A total of 70,000 square meters of green area has been added, and 10 theme parks have been built or renovated to improve the city’s ecological environment.

“Our people are the biggest beneficiaries of the ecological restoration and the city’s racetrack project,” said Zhao Wei, party secretary of Xinqiu District in Fuxin. “And the biggest change it has brought to our city is that people have become more confident in the transformation and development of resource-depleted cities.” 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Bianji)

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