The Great Wall of China. Photo: Matt Barber / Creative Commons.
China's rapid push to develop the country's resources is now threatening its most iconic landmark. According to recent reports, both legal and illegal mining near the Great Wall are causing parts of the ancient, 4,000-mile-long structure to crumble away."The Great Wall of China may have survived the Huns and Mongol hordes, but widespread neglect, underfunding, and mining means that it is now falling down," The Telegraph reported earlier this month, citing photographs that show "huge holes...punched through the wall in some areas" and entire sections up to 100 miles long in ruins.
Mining Operations Largely Unregulated
"We have no idea how many enterprises are engaged in mining along the Great Wall," the British newspaper quoted Guo Jianyong, an engineer from the provincial architecture protection agency, as telling the People's Daily.
The stability of the centuries-old wall is threatened by prospecting for copper, iron, molybdenum, and nickel, with some mining operations coming within 100 meters of the famous structure, Reuters reported. It said the country's Land Resources Bureau is not required to consult with the Department of Cultural Heritage before issuing mining permits.
Villagers in Hebei Province told the Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency that "about 700 meters of the wall, which was built during the reign of Emperor Wanli during the Ming Dynasty (1573-1620), had already collapsed, and more walls and even towers are likely to collapse if the mining continues unchecked."
According to both The Telegraph and Reuters, maintenance of the wall has focused on the most-visited segments near Beijing, with other parts neglected and left to fall into disrepair. Xinhua quoted an engineer as saying that resources are so limited, many segments of the wall are only inspected once a year.
"There was a regulation to protect the wall in 2006, but the wall is so long it is hard to enforce... And the general awareness of the wall's problems is low," Dong Waohui, the vice-chairman of the Great Wall Association, told The Telegraph. "People just think of the famous sections and assume that the rest of the wall is in the same condition."
More On China And Mining
Mongolian Mining Battle Heats Up With Herder's Death
China Shutters 1600 Dangerous Coal Mines
Toxic Spill at Chinese Copper Mine Kills Nearly 1900 Tons of Fish
China Tightens Grasp on Rare Earth Metals Vital for Green Technologies
China's Coal Industry: The Waste Has Us Gasping