Giant coal mine in violation of laws uncovered at the source of China’s mother river

Press release - 2014-08-04
Beijing, August 7, 2014: The existence of a giant coal mine illegally encroaching on a nature reserve at the source of the iconic Yellow River, China’s second longest, has been brought to light by a Greenpeace investigation published today.

The headquarters of the Muli opencast coal mine owned by the Kingho Group is located between the huge mounds of opencast mine and the Qilian Mountains. The picture was taken on 20th June, 2014.

The sprawling mining operation, covering an area 14 times larger than the City of London at an altitude of over 4,000m, has been documented in detail for the first time in a series of striking pictures taken by undercover campaigners from Greenpeace’s Beijing office. The industrial site is part of an entire coal industry chain, extending from the giant opencast mines to the highest coking plant in the world.

By combining evidence gathered on seven separate trips to the remote region with satellite images and analysis by legal experts, Greenpeace campaigners have established that the coal development, run by a group of private companies, violates a number of water protection laws and local nature reserve regulations.

Its location right at the heart of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau - known as China’s "water tower" for being the birthplace of some of the country’s major rivers - will raise fresh concerns about the impact of coal mining on the country’s water resources.

The mining operation, first started in 2003, has destroyed the pristine alpine meadows linking the glaciers on the Qinghai Mountains to the plateau, cutting off the channel feeding rainfall and melt water to the rivers.

This investigation is the latest in a series of reports by Greenpeace East Asia exposing the huge strain the coal industry is putting on the country’s waters. Greenpeace research has shown that government plans to boost coal production by building 16 coal industry hubs that will consume nearly 10 billion cubic meters of water, the equivalent of one sixth of the Yellow River’s water volume.

The study also estimates that in 2015, the water demand of coal power bases in Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Ningxia will either severely challenge or exceed the respective areas’ total industrial water supply capacity.

Earlier this year the Shenhua Group, a state-owned company and the world's biggest coal producer by volume, announced it would stop exploiting groundwater for their coal-to-liquid project in Inner Mongolia following a Greenpeace investigation revealing the impact of their operation on an area already struggling with severe water shortages.

Commenting on the investigation’s findings, Li Shuo, Greenpeace East Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner, said:

“This huge coal mine dug into the birthplace of China’s mother river is arguably the most shocking example of the threat coal poses to the country’s water supply.

“China’s growing hunger for coal is not only fuelling the cycle of air pollution crises plaguing the country’s largest cities, it’s also using up enormous amounts of water, threatening whole regions with water shortages and desertification.

“The Beijing authorities have shown a strong determination in tackling the smog emergency triggered by coal fumes - now they need to display the same resolve in protecting the country’s water reserves from this destructive industry.”


Mr. Tang Damin, International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia, , +86 139 1152 6274

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