China's Great Wall eaten away by mining

Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:05am EDT
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By Jimmy Guan and Tyra Dempster

LAIYUAN, China (Reuters)- China's Great Wall is falling victim to development as legal and illegal mines tear vast chunks out of the hills below the landmark, conservationists warn.

Voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the 6,400 km (4,000 mile) wall snakes its way across 11 Chinese provinces and draws millions of tourists every year, mostly to restored sections near the capital, Beijing.

Away from the tourist trail, however, some parts of the wall are being allowed to crumble away.

About 200 km (124 miles) southwest of Beijing, in rural Laiyuan county in Hebei province, dozens of small mines are threatening the stability of the centuries-old wall as prospectors dig for copper, iron, molybdenum and nickel, state news agency Xinhua reported. Some mines have excavated within 100 meters of the wall.

But since many of these mines have legal permits, there is nothing conservationists can do, said Dong Yaohui, Vice Chairman of the Great Wall Society.

"The exploitation of the mineral resources falls under the jurisdiction of the Land Resources Bureau, so if the bureau issues mining permits to the mining companies, they can legally extract the mineral resources within areas designated in the contract," Dong said.

"But in this process the Land Resources Bureau does not take into consideration the Great Wall as a factor, or consult the opinion of the Department of Cultural Heritage as there is no rule requiring a consultation as such. So this creates the mess in organization."

The Laiyuan Land Resources Bureau blames the destruction on small, illegal mines, and Xinhua quoted them as saying that operators of such mines use sophisticated communication devices to dodge law enforcement.   Continued...

<p>Tourists walk along a section of the Great Wall shrouded in mist at Simatai, located in the outskirts of Beijing December 1, 2010. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen</p>