Li Min, 57, a former iron ore mine owner, was considered eccentric when he poured much of his assets into a deserted mine.
Having spent some 270 million yuan ($41.3 million) on the land in Qian'an, Hebei province, over the past three years, Li is now content to see the mine transformed into an ecological park.
Li is a native of Caiyuan township, where the Jinling iron ore mine restoration and tourism project is located. He recalled that when he was a child, the mountain used to be green and the river was clean.
"I believe the restoration project will revive the original look of the mountain ruined by mining," he said.
Surrounding Beijing, Hebei is a leading producer of iron and steel. Facing pressure from the overcapacity of iron production as well as air pollution, many steelmakers and iron ore mines have been closed in the nation's pursuit of green high-quality development.
Li said the Jinling restoration and tourism project mainly consists of an ore waste processing line with an annual processing capacity of 6 million metric tons, and land reclamation to turn the scarred mountain into farmland and green spaces.
The park currently boasts more than 66 hectares of flower fields and it received over 30,000 tourists during the National Day holiday in October.
At the entrance to the park lies Liuzhuangzi village, Caiyuan, Li's hometown.
A cooperative has been established in the village to lease farmland from villagers, organize them to plant trees and flowers in the park and support them to develop homestay operations.
"By leasing the farmland to the park, villagers have become shareholders in the project. We have enjoyed both a better environment and higher incomes," said local Zhang Lina, adding that three nearby villages have also formed similar cooperatives.
Including the Jinling project, the city of Qian'an has restored and reclaimed nearly 2,000 hectares of land from iron ore mines in recent years.
Hebei cut iron and steel production capacity by more than 68 million tons from 2016 to 2019, almost half of the capacity slashed by the entire country during the same period, official data showed.
While the outdated capacity has been reduced in favor of more environmentally friendly industries, the steelmakers that remain operational have upgraded their technology and equipment to save energy and cut pollution.
HBIS Group, one of the world's largest steelmakers, has adopted more than 130 advanced technologies, such as desulfurization and denitrification, at its new plant in Tangshan, where zero wastewater emissions and safe disposal of solid and hazardous waste have been realized, said Wang Xindong, deputy general manager of the group.
The excess heat and energy are used to generate power for the plant, and provide heating to residential communities with 5 million square meters of floor area, Wang said.
Continuous efforts driven by green development have borne fruit.
According to a September report by the World Bank team on pollution management and environmental Health, the reduction in PM2.5 concentrations in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is among the most substantial air quality improvements achieved globally in the past five to six years.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment said the average annual concentration of PM2.5 in Beijing dropped from 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter in 2013 to 42 mcg/cu m in 2019, a decrease of more than 50 percent, while carbon emissions fell 43 percent from 2010 to 2019.
Standing on a sightseeing platform, Li looked out over the park and expressed optimism.
The Jinling project, with a total investment of 850 million yuan, will cover more than 660 hectares, where an extreme sports zone and a water park will be built.
"Tourists will be able to enjoy the flowers in spring, swim in the summer, pick fruit in the fall and frolic in the snow in the winter here," Li said.
Jan. 15, 2020 Beijing China
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