Chinese authorities detain owner of coal mine operating illegally in Tibet

A mining project in Tibet.
20th August 2020

An open-pit coal mine has been operating illegally in eastern Tibet.

The owner of a Chinese mining company has been detained after a state-affiliated newspaper reported it has made 15 billion yuan in profits while operating illegally at a high altitude site in Tibet since 2006.

Economic Information Daily reported the company, Xingqing, was operating an illegal open-pit coal mine with no permit at Muru in eastern Tibet, which is governed by China as Qinghai Province. 

Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch, said the company had a permit but it was fake. 

The mining company, Xingqing, has extracted around 25 million tons of coal from the Muru area, a site which is 5,800 metres above sea level and is covered in parts with glacier ice and permafrost, Tibet Watch said. 

It is unknown how the company was able to continue mining the site illegally for so long, Tibet Watch said, adding the operation has done “massive damage to the ecology of the area.” 

In 2014, officials of Qinghai Province decided no more mining would be allowed on the Muru grasslands. But following the decision, Xingqing claimed to be cleaning the debris from the previous years of mining to restore the ecosystem. 

The company did this in the day while continuing to extract coal at night, Free Tibet’s research partner said. 

The head of China’s science and geology association said if mining in Muru continues without interruption the permafrost in the area will melt and harm the nature of the soil.

Tibet Watch commenting on the case said, “One of the many concerns of Tibetans… regarding Chinese occupation of Tibet is the massive destruction of the environment.”

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