Returning Home⑫|Long-lost Ecological Beauty: The New Charm of The Old Mining District


On Mt. Yuanbao under the wintry sunshine, it is pure blue sky when looking upward but a colorful sea of forests when looking down below. A few erects flying through the forest attracted crowds of people doing morning exercises.


Mt. Yuanbao, which used to host an abandoned coalmine, has become an urban ecopark after the ecology has been repaired and restored. "Some years ago, pheasants and hares were nowhere to be seen on Mt. Yuanbao. Now, after being greened, many small animals have returned," said Luo Wenhui, a second-class principal staff member of the Fengfeng Mining District Natural Resources and Planning Bureau.


Famous for the hill and prosperous for coal mining, the Fengfeng Mining District has a century-old mining history. In fact, it is deeply stamped with landscape cultures. It has been verified that Mt. Shenjun that is mentioned in "Shan Hai Jing", a classic on mountains and rivers, is the present Mt. Yuanbao and the river Fushui mentioned in it is the Fuyang River, a mother river of Handan.

元宝山经过生态修复,山上树木茂盛、郁郁葱葱,山下溪水常流、群泉喷涌。杜军海 摄

There are exuberant trees on Mt. Yuanbao and ever-flowing streams and springs down below after the local ecology has been restored. (Photo by Du Junhai)


"The first thing in the minds of most people about Fengfeng is coalmine. In fact, it used to be a place famous for its abundant grass and forests," said Li Chunshe, a local chronicle expert in Handan. "In the 1970s and 1980s, almost every family in the Fengfeng Mining District lived solely on what was available locally. There were almost 100 mining pits in the peak period. The hill was riddled with holes and pits. The rich coal resources brought people not only wealth but also grave pollution.


The concept of "lush mountains are mountains of gold and silver" has found itself into the hearts of the people since the 18th National Party Congress. The Fengfeng Mining District has begun to plant trees. "Starting from 2014, the Fengfeng Mining District was the first to start in the city of Handan a campaign of putting in order the mining operations, dismantling all structures that had been put up without permission and restoring the ecology in the entire district. It has shut 41 mining enterprises and repurposed 98 abandoned coal pits," said Luo Wenhui. Up to the present, it has finished eco-restoration in 98 open-pits, covering 28,000 mu (1,866 hectares) and planted 4 million trees.

元宝山"重披绿装变景山",成为峰峰矿区的城市生态公园。李琰 摄

Mt. Yuanbao has become green again, becoming an urban eco-park. (Photo by Li Yan)


Recalling the work of ecological restoration, Luo Wenhui could not but give a deep sign. "It was too hard to plant trees on stones. Mt. Yuanbao was so steep that large machines could not be used. We had to rely on people to carry saplings up the hill and used steel chips and hammers to drill holes in stone. Then we used the stone cut to build scale-line pits and collect soil from the seams of stones for planting trees."


If we do not fail nature, nature shall never fail us. Nowadays, Mt. Yuanbao, after being restored, looks lush green. Mt. Xiangtang lies south-northward. The sea of forests in the eco-valley is extending outward. "Good hill nurtures good water. Now, you see, the Fuheyuan stream is ever flowing. The Heilongdong springs are welling up with water. The Fuyang River lies east-west. More and more birds have come to Fengfeng to multiply, stop over or winter," said Yang Yuanjie, a shutterbug who has over the past dozen years taken more than 50,000 pictures to record the gradual changes of the Fengfeng Mining District.

越来越多鸟类选择在峰峰矿区繁殖、停歇、越冬,成为生态环境持续向好的标志。杨元杰 摄

More and more birds have chosen the Fengfeng Mining District for multiplying, stopping over or wintering. The district has become an indicator that reflects the sustained improvement of the environment around it. (Photo by Yang Yuanjie )


"In the past, there was nothing on the hill. The sky was grey and water was black. There was nothing except the coalmine that was worth recording," said Yang Yuanjie. "But now, not only common birds have returned but also more and more rare fowls such as swan, egret and piper can be found in the mining district. I've taken pictures of a score species of birds and many of them are unknown to me."


The Fengfeng Mining District is but an epitome of mines harnessing in Handan and even the whole of Hebei Province. As a big mining province, Hebei used to have 20,000 mines in the peak period. People in many areas have found their money bags growing fatter but their good life lost. In recent years, Hebei has come to grip with the harnessing of mining areas as part of its efforts to build an ecological civilization. Starting from 2014, the province has repaired and harnessed more than 4,000 traces of mines, covering 400,000 mu (about 26,000 hectares). The once devasted mines have become green again.

Editor: Li Wenpei,Song Lifang,Cao Zikuo