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Across China: North China Coal Village Relocates For New Life

Dec 23, 2016

TAIYUAN -- Due to dangers caused by subsidence in mining, Nansangyu has become the first village to be entirely relocated to a city in the major coal-producing province of Shanxi in North China.

Talking about the move, He Longjiang, a Nansangyu resident, said he had never imagined that he would one day live in a decent residential building.

Now He lives in one of 22 newly-built buildings in the suburbs of Hejin, where all Nansangyu villagers have relocated. The mountain area covers about eight square km and has a population of more than 2,500.

Due to long-term coal mining, subsidence has caused many difficulties and more than 90 percent of the underground area of the village is a series of mine shafts, which has resulted in the ground caving in, exhaustion of water resources and homes collapsing.

"We used to worry about the safety of our houses. The cracks on the wall were so wide that you could put your finger into them, and I did not turn off the light at night as we were afraid that the house might collapse suddenly," He said.

Nansangyu village started to relocate in 2008. So far, 22 residential buildings, an apartment for the elderly, a kindergarten and a square have been constructed. More than 95 percent villagers have relocated to the new area.

He Longjiang's new home covers 102 square meters. It cost him 60,000 yuan ($8,983), which means he spent less than 600 yuan per square meter, though the average price of homes have risen to over 3,000 yuan per square meter.

"I feel safe and cozy in my new home, and I can have a good sleep now," he said.

Wang Guoqing, Party chief of the Nansangyu village, said that they have set up a labor and employment service center and a staffing company to help the relocated villagers find jobs.

"We contacted neighboring hotels, restaurants and factories to help villagers who want to seek jobs near their home. We also organized some villagers to learn technical skills such as welding and driving excavators," Wang said.

Now, more than 90 percent the villagers have found jobs, said Li Fenyao, manager of the staffing company in the village.

Li Xiangze, who learned welding, can now earn a monthly salary of 3,000 yuan; Yang Laofa, 58, opened a car-wash and employs six villagers; and former housewife Shi Bianyang, 56, found a job as a cleaner.

In 2015, the income of the village reached 14,500 yuan per capita, more than double what it was before the relocation.

"When we first moved to the newly-built village, villagers kept their bad manners such as spitting and littering," said Wang.

Therefore, Wang organized a meeting for all villagers and decided to implement regulations to help villagers get rid of their bad habits and become more civilized.

The 79 Party members in the village took the lead to help villagers stop swearing and behave politely, Wang said.

Residents now enjoy a good environment, stability and security in their new village.

The newly-constructed apartments for the elderly provide free food and accommodation for villagers aged over 75. There are 40 elderly people living in the apartment complex.

After years of coal mining, Shanxi Province has a total of 3,000 square meters of area in danger from subsidence. By the end of 2020, the province will relocate 1,351 villages and about 655,000 people, according to experts at the province's land and resources department.

Shanxi has produced about a quarter of China's coal since 1949. However, in 2015 Shanxi's coal industry lost 9.4 billion yuan. By the end of 2015, the industry had suffered losses for 18 consecutive months.

Cutting overcapacity in sectors such as coal and steel is part of the country's supply-side structural reforms and is high on the government agenda.

Shanxi has taken various measures to slash overcapacity, such as shutting down coal mines, expanding coal-electricity integration, promoting industrial reorganization and suspending new coal mine projects.