|February 20, 2012|
|By Dorothy Kosich|
The regional land and resources bureau of Northern China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region said they halted 476 illegal mining projects, ordered 887 mines suspend operations and permanently shut down 73 mines last year.
North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region ordered an overhaul of the mining sector after protests erupted last May after the death of an ethnic Mongolian herder during a dispute between miners and herders.
The 35-year-old herder was run over and killed by a coal truck driven by a Han Chinese coal-truck driver while the herder was trying to stop a convoy of mining trucks from crossing prairie grassland. Local residents say the coal trucks regularly take shortcuts over grazing land, killing livestock and damaging grasslands.
A court in Inner Mongolia subsequently handed down a death sentence and life in jail for two men charged in connection with the homicide.
Last May regional officials in Xilingol, a region within Inner Mongolia, shut down four mining companies and suspended 34 others. The officials said the mining operators harassed local residents, and failed to properly compensate for the use of grassland. Some of the mining operations were not licensed.
Meanwhile, the government reported it intervened in 100 disputes between local herders and mining companies last year, and established a mechanism involving the government, miners and local residents to resolve disputes through dialogue.
Mines in Inner Mongolia have also been ordered to offer employment and shares to herders and their children who have been displaced from their lands by mining operations.
Inner Mongolia holds China's largest coal reserves-770.3 billion tons by the end of 2011-and is believed to host large deposits of iron ore and rare earth elements.