Phosphate mining in earthquake-stricken area increases risk of further disaster and impacts native panda population

Press release - 2013-04-16
Beijing, 16/04/2013: Greenpeace and Chengdu-based environmental NGO Hengduan Mountain Research Society have released a joint report on the hazards of phosphate mining activities in Longmen Mountain, an area severely stricken by the devastating 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

The studies have found that phosphate mining in Longmen Mountain greatly exacerbates the risk of landslides and other geological disasters, threatening the safety of miners and residents downstream. In addition, phosphate mining has encroached on the region's nature reserve, impacting a native giant panda population. The environmental groups call on the Sichuan Provincial Government to immediately halt mining activities in high-risk disaster areas and giant panda habitats. 

"The 2008 earthquake has rendered this area a disaster zone, which means development activities should be restricted. The government and mining companies have to respect the laws of nature and recognize the catastrophe that is unfolding," says Greenpeace actions campaigner Lang Xiyu.

This assessment of the geological stability of Longmen Mountain was carried out by Hengduan Mountain Research Society, through field investigations and an analysis of geological structural changes. Surveying has revealed that the Wenchuan earthquake triggered a host of ongoing dangers beyond the initial damage, which have now been further aggravated by large-scale phosphate mining.

"Any phosphate mining in Longmen Mountain must first take into account the risk of secondary disasters. And this area has already suffered major mudslides, landslides and floods in both 2009 and 2010," says Hengduan Mountain Research Society's senior geological engineer Yang Yong. "This is a disaster-prone area, and further exploitation by mining groups will only increase the threat of geological disasters." 

Beginning March 2012, Greenpeace also conducted a number of field trips to the Nine Mountain Nature Reserve in Sichuan, in order to investigate threats to a protected nature reserve that is currently housing eleven pandas in the wild. Field surveys in the Mianyuan River valley found that phosphate mining has destroyed much of the vegetation located in the hinterland of the panda habitat. Furthermore, in August 2012, the Sichuan Provincial Government changed the boundary of the nature reserve in order to award exploration rights to a mining company. 

Lang Xiyu added, "Mining and road construction has forced this local giant panda population into an ever smaller and fragmented area. The panda is supposed to be one of China's most loved animals. How can we be willing to let their lives fall wayside in the name of economic development?" 

The Greenpeace and Hengduan Mountain Research Society are hereby making a joint appeal to the Sichuan Provincial Government to immediately halt mining activities in high-risk areas of geological disasters and giant panda habitats, and in the long run restrict development in such major geological hazardous areas and revise its development strategy of the mining industry.

Download the report summary. 

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Damin Tang,
Media Relations, Greenpeace East Asia
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