North China’s Hebei province brings better life to citizens by promoting green transformation of traditional mines

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“Now who can imagine this place was full of waste residues and discarded materials from iron and steel company,” said Kong Chao, head of the greening department of Hebei Xinjin Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., referring to an ecological park in Wu’an, a county-level city under Handan city, north China’s Hebei province.

The site of the ecological park covering an area of more than 500 mu (about 33.33 hectares) was originally idle ground and barren mountains. In 2018, Hebei Xinjin Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. started to tame and landscape mountains, build cofferdams and farmland, and gradually created the ecological park featuring idyllic scenery and sea of flowers.

“The 100-meter-long passage was built with waste steel tubes from our company; the source of the water system for the aquatic plant garden is treated industrial wastewater; and the fruits and vegetables in the ecological park can be supplied to the canteens of our company. We have realized organic cyclic utilization of resources in various links of our company,” Kong said.

As one of the old industrial bases of China, Handan city has seen its number of mines exceed 3,000 for a time. Long-term and high-intensity mining activities have caused many problems for the city, including land occupation by steel slag and ground surface subsidence.

Since 2016, Handan city has unswervingly promoted management and ecological restoration of mines, and has so far closed 240 solid mines and restored ecology in 250 mines.

The city’s endeavor to advance transformation through environmental protection has boosted improvement and upgrading of traditional industries.

In June 2019, Handan’s iron and steel industry and coking industry took the lead in Hebei province in completing organized ultra-low emission transformation, and the transformation of other industries, including cement industry and ceramics industry, was all completed by the end of 2019.

Last year, the number of good air quality days in Handan increased significantly.

“In the past, there were large pits everywhere in this area, and those mountains of waste rocks smelled very bad. Now the dirty and disorderly diggings have become a scenic spot,” said Li Shuang’an, a worker who prunes plants for Jiulongshan scenic spot in Wu’an.

Thanks to an ecological restoration project kicked off in 2019, abandoned mines were replaced by lucid waters and lush mountains, and the newly created Jiulongshan ecological restoration park built on the sites of those mines has not only attracted numerous visitors from all over the country, but provided jobs for residents in a nearby village named Kangdong village. Li is right one of the villagers who found jobs in the scenic spot.

During the National Day and Mid-autumn Festival holiday last year, the scenic spot received 50,000 to 60,000 tourists every day.

In Fengfeng Mining Area in Handan, many residents in Zhangjialou village, Pengcheng township of the area, have benefited from the development of cultural tourism ahead of others.

As many young people went out to bigger cities to work, old residences and buildings in Zhangjialou village gradually decayed and were left unattended. After the situation attracted the attention of Zhao Lichun, a local scholar in the cultural field, Zhao suggested to the local government that the old village should get protection.

Zhao proposed that the protection for Zhangjialou village, which has the typical features of that of traditional villages in northern China where many people made a living in the parceling industry, should not only focus on old buildings, but also the well-established kiln culture.

The unique culture heritage has attracted many artists to the village. While preserving the original charm of the old village, these artists have established studios and exhibition rooms in the old residences of Zhangjialou village, and local villagers have started to run various businesses, such as tea shop, ceramics store, and homestay hotels, injecting vitality into the old village.

Today, the village sees an endless stream of visitors coming to see and feel the charm of the ancient village. The number of visitors to Zhangjialou village reaches 300,000 person-times a year, bringing the village more than 3 million yuan ($456,300) in tourism revenue.

Hebei’s efforts to prioritize ecological protection and green development have been proven successful. Such efforts have enabled the province to advance ecological restoration, improvement in rural residents’ living environment, and construction of tourism infrastructure in a well-coordinated manner, and facilitate the boom in cultural tourism and other emerging industries.

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