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Asian Petroleum Review : Jan-March 2011
5 Near the entrance of what was once Asia's biggest open-cast coal mine, Fan Chunming smiles as he points to a scale model of a manicured park with playgrounds, forests and streams - - an Arcadian vision that will be built in the depths of the pit. "Construction will begin at the end of 2012 and that's what the mine will look like in about 10 years, " said. Fan, an urbane Chinese opera en- thusiast, who is one of the officials entrusted with transforming the dismal site in Fuxin in northeastern China's Liaoning province into a national tourist attraction. Right now, the Haizhou coalmine, a freezing wilderness of winter mist and smog, couldn't look more different. Trucks heave in and out of the mine and thick smoke billows from its depths, coating the area in a sulphurous fug that hugs the surrounding slopes. The taste in the air is like spent matches. Yet this is still a considerable improvement. "Ten years ago you'd come here to the side of the mine and you'd be coughing and spitting, and the spit would instantly be black," Fan said. To reduce the pollution, flame retardant chemicals have been scattered over the smouldering remnants of the mine, but fires will continue to spread sulphur, mercury and other toxins into the city air until they are finally extinguished in 2012. More than 60 percent of Fuxin's workforce once had jobs in the coal industry, but as its mines deplete, the city has had to tackle crippling unemployment, life- threatening pollution and catastrophic land subsi- dence. "Fuxin is a manifestation of problems that occur all over the old mining areas in China and are particularly prevalent in the northeast," said David Creedy, a vet- eran mining specialist who now works in Beijing with the British carbon project developers, Sindicatum. "Fuxin is maybe the worst example but there are lots of other historic, environmental problems that need to be handled, " said Creedy, a former World Bank con- sultant. Coal has left many of China's cities sinking and chok- ing, its water supplies contaminated and a large sec- tion of its workforce suffering from chronic health problems. Fuxin's mine fires are nothing compared to those a century old that continue to burn in the north- west, polluting the air. Thomson Reuters Asia Petroleum Review China tries to give old king coal a merrier soul By David Stanway and Fayen Wong CHINA Smoke billows from a chimney at a coking factory in Hefei. REUTERS/Jianan Yu SPECIAL REPORT