Coal mines as tourist draws
Updated: 2011-10-13 07:50
Huge mining machines are now exhibits at the coal-mines-turned tourist sites in Fuxin, Liaoning province. Yi Runqian / Asia News Photo
As a young, migrant carver in Shenzhen in the late-1970s, Yang Kequan's dream was to someday start a small agate workshop, where he could hire a handful of workers. Three decades later, his Yang Kee Agate Company, based in his hometown of Fuxin, employs more than 100 workers and imports materials from South Asia, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The 51-year-old's good fortune reflects, in part, the development of alternative industries in a province that for decades has relied heavily on coal mining.
Fuxin, in western Liaoning province, and Fushun, in the east, have some of China's most important collieries. Two of these giant coal mines have now reached their end, but they're being reincarnated as tourist spots to help finance their safety upkeep.
Fuxin's Haizhou Mine, which opened in the 1940s under Liaoning's then Japanese occupiers, is one of Asia's largest open-pit mines. After exhausting its reserves, the mine shut down in 2005. Now, it features a viewing platform for visitors, overlooking a crater that is 2 km long, 4 km wide and 700 meters deep. Under construction around the complex, says the local government, is a steam train museum, hotels, restaurants, a golf course and a park.
In Fushun, the 110-year-old Xilutian Mine is counting down to its last dig in 2016. But even while excavators, bulldozers and trucks go about their business digging, loading and transporting coal, tourists and their guides stream in and out to look down at the activity in the 14-sq-km pit.
Just behind the viewing deck is an interesting display of machinery once used in the mine, including a bulldozer plow manufactured during the Republic of China period (1911-1949), a 1950 Soviet-model excavator and a 1960 East German electric locomotive.
An adjacent museum showcasing the development of Liaoning's coal mining industry, is scheduled to open in October.
(China Daily 10/13/2011 page18)