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And as we just reported, China's coalmines are notorious for being unsafe—where more than ten thousand miners die every year. But the human cost of coal mines don't stop there. A large number of poorly regulated small mines have devastated the environment, and the lives of people living nearby.
Coal—it's fueling China's economic expansion, but also leaving behind a trail of devastation. In southwest Hunan Province, residents from Qingshu village say they've been in living in turmoil because of a nearby coalmine.
The Qingshu Number Two Mine began operating in 2002. At first, villagers thought it would create jobs and wealth, but soon the cost of coal mining began taking its toll. Like most other small-scale mines in China, this one is poorly regulated. Villagers say ten years of mining activities have destroyed the land they live on.
[Xie Yuanjin, Qingshu Villager]:
"Sixty percent of the homes here are uninhabitable, they all have cracks. Eighty percent of the farmlands are wastelands. We don't dare to live in homes, and we can work on our farms. I'm not working as a laborer out of town. Those who ask authorities for help are arrested and put in jail."
Last December, Hunan-based author Ma Xiao began investigating the effect of coal mining in the province. His photographs reveal sludge and waste flowing through the village, subsiding farmland and murky waterways. The heavily polluted environment has also made many locals sick. Nearly a year later, villagers say not much has changed.