Last update:
2020-06-15

Illegal coal mining at Muli coalfield in Qinghai, China

Greenpeace published an investigation report on the illegal coal mining activities of the Muli coalfield in August 2014. The report disclosed the significant pollution and damage to the ecological environment caused by illegal mining activities.



Description:

The open-pit Muli coalfield is located at the border of Tianjun County in Qinghai Haixi Mongolian Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Gangcha County in Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which are on a remote alpine plateau at an altitude of over 4,000m near Qilian Mountains in Qinghai Province in northwest China.  [1] The Muli coalfield has an area of 112.6 km2 with 3.5 billion tonnes of identified coal reserves, more than 87% of Qinghai’s total. It consists of four opencast coal mine sites, namely Jiancang (建仓), Juhugeng (巨乎更), Duosuogongma (哆嗦贡马) and Hushan (弧山) coal mine. The former two had been extracting on a large scale since 2003 and the latter two were at the verge of opening as of 2014. [2]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Illegal coal mining at Muli coalfield in Qinghai, China
Country:China
State or province:Qinghai Province
Location of conflict:Muli Town, Tianjun County (天峻县木里镇)
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Coal extraction and processing
Other
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Coal
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Muli coalfield has an area of 112.6 km2 (11,260 ha) with 3.5 billion tonnes of identified coal reserves. It consists of four opencast coal mine sites, namely Jiancang (建仓), Juhugeng (巨乎更), Duosuogongma (哆嗦贡马) and Hushan (弧山) coal mine. The former two had been extracting on a large scale since 2003 and the latter two were at the verge of opening as of 2014.[2]

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Project area:11,260 ha
Level of Investment for the conflictive project47,830,000.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,233 (population of Muli Town as of 2017)
Start of the conflict:01/08/2014
End of the conflict:16/11/2015
Company names or state enterprises:Qinghai Coking Coal Group from China - Coal mining
China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) from China - Coal mining / transport
Tianjun Yihai Energy Coal Operation Co Ltd (formerly known as Qinghai Yihai Energy Company) (Tianjun Yihai) from China - The only company involved in coal mining at Muli coalfield as of 2019
Aokai Group from China - One of the companies involved in coal mining activities
China Kingho Energy Group Co., Ltd. (China Kingho) from China - Main company involved in the Muli coalfields in the early development stage
Relevant government actors:- Qinghai provincial government (青海省政府);
- Qinghai Environmental Protection Department (青海环保厅);
- State Council (国务院);
- Muli Town Municipality (木里镇政府);
- Tianjun County Forest and Environmental Protection Bureau Environmental Monitoring Team (天峻县林业和环保局环境监测大队)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace (https://www.greenpeace.org.cn/qinghai-illegal-mining-report)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Pastoralists
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Waste overflow, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsSubsidence - buildings such as the village’s administration building suffered from land subsidence with many cracks and could not be used safely.[2]
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsThe herders complained that their cattle/yak became weaker and the sheep developed cough after eating the grass polluted by the coal mining dust. [2]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Other socio-economic impacts, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsThe herders complained that their cattle/yak became weaker and the sheep developed cough after eating the grass polluted by the coal mining dust. This affects their income from livestock.
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:Greenpeace came up with three major suggestions as part of its investigation report: 1) Enhance the implementation of the new environmental protection law and other related regulations to ensure that the nature reserve and ecological function areas are well protected without being destructed by mining and industrial activities 2) Immediate halt of the illegal mining activities at Jiangcang and Juhugeng area; punish the companies that had violated existing regulations 3) Immediate halt of the illegal projects at Duosuogongma and Hushan area and removal of activities that are in the nature reserve area from the Overal Plan of Mulil Coalfield.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The report by Greenpeace and the related media exposure has caught significant attention of the central and provincial government, which ensured serious follow-up as well as systematic monitoring and supervision of the ecological restoration of the Muli coalfield area. Media report also demonstrated that significant investment had been made into the ecological restoration and that the improvement of the environment was significant after five years. However, it is worth to note that before the Greenpeace report came out, the illegal mining and environmental destruction activities took place for years and it is not known whether the permafrost which took long time to form could still be recovered after the initial destruction by the mining activities. Besides, the displacement of villagers at Muli Town already took place (relocated to Tianjun County that is 150km away) and the impact on the livelihood of the villagers is almost irreversible.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

中华人民共和国自然保护区条例 (Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves)
[click to view]

中华人民共和国环境保护法 (Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China)
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

CAO Wei,SHENG Yu and CHEN Ji, 2008, 青海木里煤田冻土环境评价研究
[click to view]

Dawen Qian & Changzhen Yan & Zanpin Xing & Lina Xiu, 2017, Monitoring coal mine changes and their impact on landscape patterns in an alpine region: a case study of the Muli coal mine in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
[click to view]

[1] C. Ottery, “Exposed: Coal mining at the source of China’s Yellow River,” Unearthed, Aug. 2014. (accessed May 11, 2020).
[click to view]

[2] 澎湃新闻网, “青海砍掉5%保护区让位采矿 国家生态功能区告急,” CNR(央广网), Aug. 07, 2014. (accessed May 26, 2020).
[click to view]

[3] W. Yue, “Greenpeace: Kingho Group’s Mining Operation Endangers Qinghai Plateau,” Forbes, Aug. 07, 2014. (accessed May 10, 2020).
[click to view]

[4] J. Kaiman, “Illegal coal mine encroaching on nature reserve in north-west China,” The Guardian, Aug. 07, 2014. (accessed May 10, 2020).
[click to view]

[5] Greenpeace China, “Qilianshan illeagal coal mining investigation report,” Aug. 2014. Accessed: May 11, 2020. [Online].
[click to view]

[6] “Alpine meadows disappear under opencast mines in northwest China ,” ChinaDialogue, Aug. 07, 2014. (accessed May 10, 2020).
[click to view]

[7] “木里镇_百度百科,” Baidu Baike (百度百科). (accessed Jun. 12, 2020).
[click to view]

[8] S. Yi, “Qinghai nature reserve shrunk to make way for mines,” The Paper (澎湃新闻网), Aug. 11, 2014. (accessed May 26, 2020).
[click to view]

[9] H. Deng, “风吹草低见黑矿,牛羊家归何方?,” China News (中国新闻网), Aug. 08, 2014. (accessed May 27, 2020).
[click to view]

[10] “将环境破坏者暴晒在阳光下,” Greenpeace, Feb. 12, 2015. (accessed Jun. 11, 2020).
[click to view]

[11] S. Wang and L. Wang, “把草原还给草原——青海木里矿区生态修复纪实,” China Natural Resource Newspaper (中国自然资源报), Nov. 21, 2019 (accessed Jun. 11, 2020).
[click to view]

[12] K. Chen and Y. Li, “煤田成牧场 动物有‘天堂’——青海木里煤田生态治理回访见闻,” Xinhua News (新华网), Nov. 28, 2019. (accessed Jun. 11, 2020).
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dr Julian Bloomer; EnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/BG
Last update15/06/2020
Conflict ID:1602
Comments
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