Abandoned coal mine in E China turned into prospering navel orange business

By Yang Yanfei, People’s Daily

“Why does the earth look like coal?” That’s a frequently asked question by many that pass by Peng Huiyun’s navel orange orchard.

“Because it is coal.” That’s what Peng always answers.
Peng’s orchard, located in Shitang village, Yunnan township, Luxi County, Pingxiang, east China’s Jiangxi province, was once a coal mine, which was a source of income for around 90 percent of the villagers in the 1990s, including Peng.

A 2009 national survey of forest resources found that over 90,000 mu or 6,000 hectares of abandoned mines in Pingxiang needed to be ecologically restored. As the idea of “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets” gradually took root in the hearts of the Chinese people, the abandoned mines grabbed the attention of the cadres in Pingxiang, who were expecting the ecological restoration could attract social capital to develop local industries.

“We were planning to contract barren mountains, and an official with the local forestry department told us that there were abandoned mines here,” said Wei Yuanzhong, an executive of an eco-farming company in Jiangxi.

An abandoned coal mine is transformed into a vast tea garden in Donghong village, Daixi township, Huzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province. The tea garden is generating annual revenue of over 10 billion yuan for villagers. (Photo by Deng Dehua/People’s Daily Online)

By that time, Peng had already quit his mining job for a long time and was serving as the director of the village committee. The message from the company hoping to contract the mines surprised him very much.

Wei later planted navel oranges in the mines. Despite the fact that it seemed impossible, he was quite confident about it. After professional determination of the composition of the soil on the mines, Wei’s company found that the soil underneath the coal gangue was still fertile. Therefore, the company flattened the ground, applied fertilizers, and buried straws under the soil to improve its fertility. In the second year, navel oranges were planted there.

Instead of clearing away the coal gangue, Peng just left it there and flattened the ground, because the soil was not polluted by the coal gangue. That’s why the earth in his orchard is black. The orchard is projected to yield 25,000 kilograms of navel oranges this year, according to him.

The photo shows a navel orange plantation in Shitang village, Yunnan township, Luxi County, Pingxiang, east China’s Jiangxi province. (Photo courtesy of the poverty alleviation office of Jiangxi province)

Now, Wei’s company has contracted 3,000 mu of abandoned mines in Pingxiang, and the local government of Yunnan township has bought into the company with financial funds. A total of 294 households that have just been lifted out of poverty can receive an annual bonus.

So far, Pingxiang has invested nearly 400 million yuan from the state and provincial revenue in greening abandoned coal mines, and over 2/3 of the 90,000 mu of abandoned mines in the city have been ecologically restored.

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