Caixin
Nov 14, 2016 07:01 PM
ENVIRONMENT

Police Arrest Alleged Operators of Inner Mongolia Illicit Mines, Developments

(Beijing) — Police in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region have detained 57 suspects on suspicion of operating illegal mines and other illicit development projects in protected nature reserves.

The arrests come after a recent investigation by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) found illicit development projects at 41 of the 89 nature reserves in the northern region, the ministry said.

Over 660 businesses, including dozens of mine operators, were damaging protected parks, the investigation found.

Some of the affected sites were managed by the central government, while others were overlooked by local governments.

Mining activities at two national parks, including the popular Daqingshan Safari Park, in the regional capital, Hohhot, and another regional wildlife habitat in the city of Ordos, continued until the first half of 2016, according to the MEP.

Local agencies in charge of park management had violated conservation rules by issuing mining licenses or failing to punish offenders, the MEP said.

Regional authorities had issued 25 mining licenses to those operating inside the Gancao Nature Reserve in Ordos after a dozen central government agencies jointly issued a curb on development projects in natural reserves in May 2015, the investigation found.

Local agencies overseeing land usage has given the green light to an open-pit mine located inside the Menggehan Mountain Nature Reserve, violating environmental protection rules, the ministry said.

Management at the Xilingol Grassland National Nature Reserve failed to move three businesses out of the site after the national rules came into effect, investigators found.

The regional government had ordered 360 businesses to close down and had warned 280 officials and reserve managers to crack down on illicit projects after the MEP investigation.

The ministry did not say how illegal mining and other projects had affected the protected reserves. But water samples taken from 90 waterways in the region showed water quality was deteriorating, the ministry said.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com); editor Poornima Weerasekara (poornima@caixin.com)

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