Muli "scars" leftover problems

  Reporter of China News Weekly/Su Jiede

  Published in the 990th issue of China News Weekly on April 5, 2021

  Viewed from the air, if the Muli mining area is an ant nest, the mine carts are worker ants, and they are constantly transporting sheep dung from all over Qinghai.

  "I have never seen such a scene. So many large mine carts go straight through the pastures and enter the homes of herdsmen to pull sheep dung." Wang Qiang told China News Weekly that 7 years ago, he came from Shaanxi to the Qinghai Muli Coalfield and passed In the form of partnership, dozens of coal trucks were purchased successively.

But nowadays, coal trucks have been transformed into dung trucks. Dozens of coal trucks no longer transport coal, and begin to transport sheep dung to participate in ecological restoration in the Muli mining area.

  On August 4 last year, the media reported that Ma Shaowei, the general manager of Qinghai Xingqing Industry and Trade Engineering Group Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Xingqing Company) and Qinghai’s "hidden richest man", made a profit of 10 billion yuan from illegal coal mining in the name of ecological restoration in Qilian Mountains. It directly triggered the "earthquake" in Qinghai's officialdom, and more than a dozen officials including Wen Guodong, vice governor of Qinghai, fell.

Not only the officialdom, but also the mining companies in the Muli coal field are also experiencing severe shocks.

"China News Weekly" learned that the former shareholders of Qinghai Coking Coal Industry (Group) Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Qinghai Coking Coal) were also under investigation, and many people were arrested: On September 27 last year, Zheng Rongde, the former actual controller of Qinghai Coking Coal and a Shanghai businessman, was arrested. Qinghai Provincial Public Security Bureau arrested for illegal mining; on February 25 this year, with the approval of the Qinghai Provincial People’s Procuratorate, Xiao Yongming, the former shareholder of Qinghai Coking Coal and the former richest man in Qinghai, was formally arrested on suspicion of illegal mining.

  The period from 2004 to 2014 was a decade of large-scale development of the Muli coalfield. Coal was over-exploited in disorder, leaving 19 slag hills and 11 open-pit mines at the southern foot of the Qilian Mountains.

"Economic Information Daily" once described that the huge depression formed by Xingqing's "opening and breaking" type of mining, winding 5 kilometers from the southeast to the northwest, forming a strip of about 1 km wide and 300 meters deep. The 500-meter ravine is like a huge wound cut on the plateau wetland."

  Since last year, Qinghai Province has launched the largest ecological improvement campaign to date.

Wang Xia, full-time deputy secretary of the Management Committee of the Qaidam Circular Economy Pilot Zone, told China News Weekly: “The ecological improvement of the Muli coalfield is done by the power of the whole province.” But how to really heal this huge scar, the local Faced with numerous challenges.

A truck of hard-to-find sheep dung

  The Muli Coalfield is located at the junction of Tianjun County and Gangcha County in Haixi Mongol-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai.

Muli is taken from Tibetan and means burning stone. The coking coal under the frozen soil of the plateau is a high-quality raw material for steelmaking.

The coal field consists of two mining areas, Jiangcang and Juhugeng, and two exploration areas, Hushan and Duoweigongma, with resource reserves of 3.54 billion tons.

  Since 2003, Qinghai has successively attracted investment from many enterprises to open-pit the Muli coal field.

Until 2014, the central government continuously issued important instructions to resolutely stop destructive mining in the Muli mining area. However, illegal coal mining in the Muli mining area still exists for a long time.

In 2020, after Xingqing Company's illegal coal mining problem in the Muli mining area was exposed by the media, Qinghai Province shut down all production and operation activities in the Muli mining area and implemented fully closed management.

  After this incident, Qinghai immediately formulated a rectification action plan of "two months to lay the foundation, strong guarantee for the establishment of the system, two years to see a green image, and three years to see results as a park".

Planting grass to re-green is one of the most critical links, requiring at least 30 cm of surface soil.

However, Qinghai is located on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It has only accumulated tens of centimeters of topsoil for thousands of years. The ecological restoration of the Muli coalfield is facing a situation where there is no soil available.

  "Grass cannot be planted on stones, and soil reconstruction is needed." Deng Erping, deputy director of Qinghai Forest and Grass Bureau, introduced at the recent training meeting for grass planting and greening held by Qinghai Forest and Grass Bureau. Ecological restoration in mining areas includes landform reshaping and soil reconstruction. Reconstruction, planting and other stages.

Landform reshaping is the reshaping of unformed slag mines, while soil reshaping includes soil covering and soil modification.

"Where does the soil come from? When we formulated the plan, we also thought of borrowing soil from other places." Deng Erping said, "The cost of borrowing soil from other places is about 3 billion yuan. This is not a saving, but a luxurious treatment."

  After the plan for borrowing soil from other places was rejected, the only way to find a solution was on the slag hills surrounding the coal mine.

As a last resort, the Muli Coalfield can only sift out finer particles from Zhashan, and use sheep board manure and organic fertilizer for soil improvement.

According to calculations, each mu of reconstruction requires 167 cubic meters of muck and sheep board manure respectively (hereinafter referred to as square) and 33 cubic meters, and the ratio of the two is about five to one.

Based on this calculation, the Muli mining area needs 1,382,700 square meters of sheep board manure, which can be filled with a warehouse that is 193 meters high and covers an area the size of a standard football field.

  However, local survey statistics show that only one-third of the sheep's dung can be collected in Haixi, Haibei and Xining.

Even these are not easy to ship back.

Wang Qiang's minecart has been driven to the door of the herdsman's house more than 200 kilometers away from the Muli Coalfield.

"It turns out that herdsmen pour sheep dung on the side of the road, which is convenient for loading and unloading. Now, we need to rent an excavator by ourselves to cross the pasture and enter the sheep pen." Wang Qiang said, he is now looking for sheep dung all over the world. "Last year 200 yuan a year The car, now it's up to 500 yuan a car."

  Even with all possible efforts, the stock of sheep slab manure cannot meet the demand of the Muli Coalfield.

The area of ​​land involved in the renovation of the Muli coalfield is about 60,000 mu, including 44,950 acres of grass-planting and greening areas and 15,800 acres of replanting projects in the treated areas.

At present, only some mining areas have completed the procurement of sheep board manure in sufficient quantities, and most of the mining areas have a large shortage of sheep board manure inventory.

  What to grow after soil improvement is also a multiple choice question.

According to the grass seed purchase plan formulated by Qinghai, in terms of the repaired area of ​​the Muli coal field, the total need for grass seed in the Muli coal field is about 624,000 kilograms.

In the end, the Qinghai Bluegrass, Qinghai Coldland Bluegrass, Qinghai Chinese Fescue and Tongde Elymus brevifolia came into sight.

However, whether these four plants can meet the needs of restoring the ecological environment has also been questioned by some experts.

“There are more than 30 primitive plants in the Muli mining area. If only 4 are planted, it is relatively simple.” An expert involved in the ecological improvement plan of the Muli coal field told China News Weekly that the restoration of plant populations must consider biodiversity. It is a way of planting multiple plant communities at the same time.

  According to the information obtained by "China News Weekly", in the past few years, the seed formation of grass seeds in mining areas has been difficult, with a maturity rate of only 5%, and multiple grass seeds are also facing degradation.

Moreover, due to heavy grazing around the Muli coalfield, the formation of natural vegetation seeds is less, and subsequent replacement vegetation succession is difficult.

Governance funds are still "in the air"

  In addition to the soaring price of sheep slab manure, it is doubtful whether a single grass species can restore the plateau ecology. The ecological restoration problem of the Muli coal field also includes the problem of funding.

  "Like us, it should belong to the five packs." Wang Qiang said helplessly. The ecological restoration work was subcontracted layer by layer, and he didn't know which company he belonged to.

Coal mining companies rarely defaulted on the project payment in the past, but the cost of transporting sheep slab dung has already defaulted a lot.

  Behind the arrears is the high cost of ecological remediation of the Muli Coalfield.

From October to November 2020, the three bidding sections of the Muli Coalfield Ecological Remediation Project have completed bidding.

The bidding section 1 targets the Juhugeng mining area and the Duoweigongma mining area. The winning bid is 2 billion yuan. The winning bidder is China Coal Geology Group under the China Coal Geology Bureau; the bidding sections 2 and 3 are mainly targeted at the Jiangcang mining area. The highest bidding prices were 560 million yuan and 600 million yuan respectively. The winning bidders were Hebei Jidong Construction Engineering Co., Ltd. and China Geological Engineering Group Co., Ltd.

  The total investment in the three bidding sections is about 3 billion yuan, but the funds are stuck.

"It turns out that many people think that this time the governance funds are too much, and the company will compensate a lot of money. Xingqing company alone has made tens of billions of yuan. If the ecological compensation is 5 billion yuan, everything will be solved. Besides, there are more than a dozen other enterprises." Deng Erping said at the training meeting of Qinghai Forestry and Grass Bureau for planting grass and regenerating green.

But in fact, until now, governance funds are still "in the air."

Last year, Qinghai seized more than 30 bank accounts related to Ma Shaowei of Xingqing Company. The balance of all accounts totaled 160 million yuan, which was far from the funds needed for ecological governance.

  "After the mine is destroyed, it will be more troublesome to raise funds for restoration. Muli is currently doing ecological compensation assessments to allow the original mining companies to compensate. This approach may be more difficult to implement in practice." China University of Mining and Technology Energy Resources Strategic Development Research Institute Dean Hu Zhenqi told China News Weekly.

The aforementioned bidding documents mentioned that the sources of funds for rectification are income from fines and confiscations of illegal mining, compensation for ecological damage, and financial subsidies.

"China News Weekly" learned that due to the lack of preliminary funds, construction companies need to advance funds.

  In fact, some construction units are already doing rectification, but in the end they did not win the bid. This is the case for the No. 2 open-pit mine in Jiangcang Mining Area where Qinghai Coking Coal is located.

A person in charge of Qinghai Coking Coal told China News Weekly that China Coal Geological Group was the first to participate in coal mine backfilling and invested a lot of money, but Hebei Jidong Construction Engineering Co., Ltd. won the bid.

  This is directly related to the planning of the Muli coal field after backfilling.

On August 25 last year, Qinghai Province held a three-year mobilization and deployment meeting for the comprehensive improvement of the ecological environment of the Muli coalfield and the Qinghai area on the southern foot of the Qilian Mountains, and the improvement action was soon launched.

“Generally speaking, the overall plan should be made first, and then the implementation plan.” The aforementioned expert who participated in the ecological improvement plan of the Muli coal field told China News Weekly that in order to remedy the situation, Qinghai is making an overall plan for the ecological restoration of the Muli mining area. In the process of demonstration and improvement.

  "Whenever the ecological environment of an area is damaged due to pollution or destruction, it usually has to go through basic procedures such as investigation and verification, evaluation and evaluation, formulating plans, soliciting opinions, and bidding for at least half a year." China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Fund It is believed that Qinghai, as an ecologically fragile plateau region, must be more carefully and scientifically renovated and restored.

  "Backfilling is an important part of restoration. Without scientific planning and preparation, the next step may be difficult to carry out." Zhou Jinfeng, secretary general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, told China News Weekly that the restoration of the Muli coalfield is For a public environmental ecological project, public opinions are very important, and it is necessary to solicit opinions publicly to ensure scientific, reasonable and fair.

  "Whether backfilling is necessary depends on the impact on people, water systems and geology." An expert involved in the management of Muli coalfield told China News Weekly that at present, there are few herdsmen around the Muli coalfield, and the impact on the water system is not significant. In fact, you can also rely on natural recovery.

But in fact, "if the pit is not filled, it will appear that local officials are not acting, and the pressure will be very great."

He said frankly that the ecological restoration need not be too anxious, it can be done step by step, and there is no problem in slowing it down.

Inspect and claim

  After the Xingqing Company's illegal mining incident was exposed, Qinghai initiated the evaluation of the ecological environmental damage compensation in the Muli Coalfield. The technical review was passed on March 8 this year, and then the environmental damage compensation consultation and litigation work will be initiated.

"Coal mining companies have also been brilliant and made money, and now it is the responsibility of compensation and governance." Wang Xia, full-time deputy secretary of the Management Committee of the Qaidam Circular Economy Pilot Zone, told China News Weekly.

  Several heads of coal mining companies told China News Weekly that the most concerned issue at present is, what are the evaluation criteria for compensation for ecological damage?

After many coal mines have changed shareholders many times, who will bear the responsibility?

A person in charge of a coal mining company with a state-owned enterprise background also said that he was worried that Qinghai's local financial resources would be weak, and the compensation for enterprise withdrawal would not meet expectations, and the requirements for enterprise mining ecological compensation may be too high.

  For some companies, they are also faced with the investigation and accountability of illegal mining crimes.

On February 25, 2021, Xiao Yongming, the actual controller of the listed company Zangge Holdings, was formally arrested by the People's Procuratorate of Qinghai Province on suspicion of illegal mining.

Xiao Yongming is the king of potash in Qinghai. In 2016, his family became the richest man in Qinghai with 26.5 billion yuan in assets.

Xiao Yongming's arrest was related to Qinghai Coking Coal.

ST Zangge once issued an announcement stating that “the Qinghai Coking Coal Industry Group was investigated by the Qinghai Provincial Public Security Department for suspected illegal mining, and certain assets and accounts of Zangge Potash were sealed and frozen by the Qinghai Provincial Public Security Department.”

  Qinghai Coking Coal, like Xingqing Company, is a key enterprise in Qinghai's investment promotion in the context of the development of the western region.

In 2006, Xiao Yongming indirectly obtained 40% of Qinghai Coking Coal through the acquisition of 100% of Hongzhu Materials.

Guo Lei, head of the former Qinghai Coking Coal Office, told China News Weekly that Xiao Yongming had arranged two vice presidents in charge of administration and sales in the company, and he rarely came to the company.

In 2011, Xiao Yongming transferred all his shares of Qinghai Coking Coal to Zhenpeng Yixiao (Shanghai) Industrial Development Co., Ltd.

The actual controller of Zhenpeng Yixiao is Zheng Rongde, who also holds 58% of Qinghai Coking Coal through Shanghai East China Electric (Group) Co., Ltd.

It was not until 2015 that Zheng Rongde was unable to repay his debts and the company's control rights changed hands.

But neither of them may have thought that after many years, both of them were arrested for the crime of "illegal mining."

  "Our company did not obtain a mining license until around 2012. Previously, only prospecting rights were used for exploration instead of mining." Guo Lei said that the main coal mining time of Qinghai Coking Coal was from 2004 to 2014.

According to the 2011 integration plan of the Muli Coalfield, the only companies that obtained mining rights at that time were Aokai Company, Qinghua Company and Yihai Energy. Five companies including Xingqing Company and Qinghai Coking Coal only had prospecting rights. At that time, " "Exploring instead of mining" is very common.

  According to Guo Lei, although Qinghai Coking Coal has not obtained mining rights, it has been produced under government supervision and license.

"Open-pit mining requires explosives, detonators and other explosives, which requires the approval of the Provincial Public Security Department. With local roads, coal can be transported from coal mines and county towns." Guo Lei said, from explosives, production, transportation and other links, Coal mines are subject to supervision by local governments.

The Jiangcang No. 2 Minefield in Muli Coalfield, developed by the company, has even been included in the third batch of key industrial projects in Qinghai Province during the Tenth Five-Year Plan.

  According to Qinghai Coking Coal’s bill, the company has mined approximately 7.8 million tons of coal, and the local area requires the company to compensate according to this amount, which may be as high as several billion yuan.

Qinghai Coking Coal believes that the company has already paid resource taxes and other taxes in its past production and should not bear excessive compensation requirements.

According to a data provided by Qinghai Coking Coal to China News Weekly, the company has invested a total of 75.525 million yuan in grassland compensation fees, resource fees, and ecological compensation fees from 2004 to 2020.

In addition, since 2014, the investment in environmental improvement is 61.82 million yuan.

  Hu Zhenqi told China News Weekly that the method of repairing who destroys it is difficult to implement in practice, and a mechanism needs to be established to guarantee it.

First, the responsibilities of the administrative management and supervision units must be in place; secondly, starting from the economic point of view, adopt the method of margin plus funds.

The company pays a deposit in accordance with the annual mining volume, and returns the deposit after the acceptance is completed, creating a cycle of payment and refund.

Funds are different from deposits and are mainly used for ecological restoration of abandoned mines.

Dispute over mining rights

  In the remediation action, the most stalemate are the mining companies waiting to be cleared.

In August 2020, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of Qinghai Province issued the "Letter from the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of Qinghai Provincial Government on Doing a Good Job in the Exit of Mining Rights in Muli Mining Area" to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of Hebei, Henan, Shandong and other provinces. According to the opinions, formulate exit plans for mining enterprises in various provinces.

  "The company's withdrawal is determined by the Qinghai Provincial Party Committee and the Provincial Government. The Qinghai Provincial State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission has entrusted the Haibei Prefecture Government to sign an exit agreement with us. Then assess how many assets the company has in order to prepare for the next step of compensation." Director of Qinghai Zhongao Energy Development Co., Ltd. Niu Quanmin told China News Weekly.

The shareholders of Sino-Austrian Energy include Hebei State-owned Jizhong Energy Fengfeng Group Co., Ltd. and Qinghai Okai Coal Development Group Co., Ltd., a private enterprise. The two cooperated around 2013. The former provides technology and capital, and the latter provides mining rights.

"After the accident, the Xingqing company took us in." Niu Quanmin said, since the coal mine ceased production in 2014, it has invested more than 1 billion yuan. If it is shut down and exits, the company will suffer serious losses.

  "We are the only company that has obtained mining rights and has been mining seriously." Wang Qiang has repeatedly emphasized that his Yihai mining area is fundamentally different from the illegal mining company Xingqing.

The mining areas of the two companies are located in the Juhugeng mining area of ​​the Muli Coalfield, which are neighbors two or three kilometers apart. "After so many years, who would have thought that Xingqing Company did not have a mining license." However, what Wang Qiang did not expect was that Yihai As an enterprise that has been mining coal mines for the past five years, the company actually has no mining rights.

  Behind the state of Yihai Company is the chaos in the management and operation of the Muli Coalfield.

"The Muli coalfield has been integrated several times, but the effect has not been good. As a company, we have very opinions." The general manager of a coal mining company told China News Weekly.

When the coal field was developed more than ten years ago, in order to attract the company to land, the local government adopted the method of first getting on the bus and then buying the ticket, and the coal mine was mined without obtaining a mining license.

Around 2006, the Muli coalfield was integrated for the first time, but it caused a lot of controversy.

In 2011, Qinghai once again integrated the Muli Coalfield.

Qinghai established Qinghai Muli Coal Industry Development Group Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Muli Group), planning to transfer the mining rights of various companies to Muli Group, in order to fulfill the requirements of one mining area and one development entity stipulated by the state.

  However, although the mining rights have been integrated, the actual operating rights are still in various companies.

According to the rating report of Qinghai State Investment, the controlling shareholder of Muli Group, Muli Group, which owns mining rights, charges about 10% of management fees to companies.

However, many mining companies that originally had mining rights have become in fact "unlicensed mining" status.

  The mining rights are integrated and inconsistent, and the supervision is in vain.

In 2011, Qinghai established the Muli Coalfield Management Bureau, located in the mining area, which should have been the most convenient for supervision.

In addition, since 2012, the four departments of Qinghai Province, including land and resources, environmental protection, safety production supervision, and water conservancy, have granted relevant administrative law enforcement powers to the Muli Coalfield Administration.

After the media exposure last year, the Central Investigation Team believed that the Muli Coalfield Administration had basically done nothing in law enforcement for more than six years since August 2014.

At present, officials including Li Yongping, director of the Muli Coalfield Administration Bureau, have been dismissed one after another, and the bureau has also been renamed the Muli Coalfield Ecological and Environmental Protection Bureau.

  A coal industry expert who did not want to be named told China News Weekly that the mines with mining rights in the Muli Coalfield are not within the scope of the National Nature Reserve and the Provincial Nature Reserve. The easy-to-mine high-quality coking coal is beneficial to local economic development. With a certain effect, it can carry out appropriate mining in line with the ecological carrying capacity.

Only one open-pit mine was approved for the Muli coal field. The others were all underground mines. However, the actual mining method is open-pit. “If you use limited, layered mining at the beginning, at least those on the ground are frozen. Soil damage will not be so severe."

  Hu Zhenqi introduced that it is very important to scientifically set the number of mining rights in open-pit mines. In the planning and design stage, the number of mining rights should be limited, and ecological capacity and restoration and governance should be considered.

If too many mining rights are set up in the same coal field, companies will rarely choose to drain soil and rock due to competition, saving money, and other reasons.

  But from the beginning, the main leaders of the Muli mining area did not take the issue of ecological restoration into consideration.

"(Wen Guodong proposed) To build Haixi Prefecture into a 100 billion yuan coal development and coal chemical industry cluster, and a major industrial town on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. These concepts and practices are clearly contrary to the direction of the renovation and protection of the Muli mining area. The joint investigation team composed of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the State Supervision Commission and other departments believes.

  In the eyes of the aforementioned coal industry experts, due to the disorderly mining in the past, there was no scientific consideration of ecological restoration, which "resulted in the end of life. This shows that the mine does not pay attention to ecological restoration, and your survival has problems."

  (At the request of interviewees, Wang Qiang and Guo Lei are pseudonyms)

  China News Weekly, Issue 12, 2021

Statement: The publication of the "China News Weekly" manuscript is authorized in writing