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Greenpeace exposes illegal mining on Tibetan plateau PDF Print E-mail
[8 August 2014] Chinese-owned open-pit coal mines are endangering the fragile ecosystem of the Tibetan plateau and some are operating illegally in protected nature zones, according to a new report published by Greenpeace.

Muli coalfield (Greenpeace) The report, by Greenpeace East Asia, identifies large-scale excavations at the Muli coalfield (pictured right) on the Tibetan plateau in Qinghai province. The coalfield, 14 times the size of the City of London, includes four opencast mines operated by the Kingho Energy Group, a privately owned Chinese company. Two of the mines already extend into a protected ecological zone and the other two are planned to expand into a neighbouring nature reserve. Overall, the Muli coalfield is expected to triple in size in the coming years.

Chinese national laws and provincial regulations state that large-scale operations within nature reserves and protected zones are illegal.

Muli coalfield (Greenpeace)In their report, Greenpeace says, The Muli coalfield is a growing cancer on an otherwise intact alpine ecological system. The report states, The opencast coal mining over years has destroyed the alpine meadows connecting the glaciers on the mountains and the plateau, cutting off the channel for rainfall and melt water to feed into rivers. As a result, the water-holding capacity of the landscape is significantly compromised.

As well as reducing water reserves, as coal extraction is a water intensive process, the coalfield is polluting the remaining water supply and surrounding grasslands with heavy metals.

Mul coalfieldGreenpeace also found no evidence that systematic assessments had been carried out on the ecological impacts of the coalfield before operations began.

Greenpeace is urging the Chinese central government and the Qinghai provincial government to "uphold an effective ban on all mining activities in the Muli coalfield, and remove any plan of mining within nature reserves". It is also calling for the protection of the Tibetan plateau and the implementation of remedies to restore affected areas.

Further reading:
Greenpeace East Asia: Giant coal mine in violation of laws uncovered at the source of Chinas mother river (4 Aug) [press release with link to download full report]
Greenpeace analysis: 5 Aug I 6 Aug
Guardian: Illegal coal mine encroaching on nature reserve in NW China (7 Aug)
Telegraph: Vast coal field expands into protected Chinese grasslands (7 Aug)
Telegraph: Photo slideshow (7 Aug)


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