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Official report exposes Qinghai authorities’ blind eye to illegal mining, environmental neglect

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(TibetanReview.net, Dec05’23) – Environmental inspectors sent by Beijing have criticised authorities in Qinghai Province for turning a blind eye to illegal mining activities of Chinese companies operating there while also failing to implement China’s environmental protection guidelines, reported the scmp.com Dec 3. The province is made up of the bulk of Tibet’s historical province of Amdo (or Domey), besides patches of territories from other parts of historical Tibet as well, although Tibetans now constitute just around a fifth of its population.

What appeared to be missing from the inspectors’ report are persecutions of Tibetan farmers and herders who had protested and complained against the illegal mining activities, with even central authorities having not acted on their petitions.

Inspectors dispatched from the central government and the State Council found breaches of environmental regulations in the Qaidam Basin (Tibetan: Tsaidam), a salt lake area long mined for potash and in recent years for lithium carbonate, which is used in the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles, the report said.

The team found that companies did not adhere to environmental protection guidelines while local governments did not do their job to enforce regulations, the report said, Citing China’s state news agency Xinhua Dec 2.

“The inspection team believes that relevant departments working at Qaidam prefecture’s salt lake have not paid enough attention to the requirement of high-level development when it comes to managing of natural resources, water conservancy, forestry and grassland in the area and have failed to supervise [the companies that operate there],” inspectors were quoted as saying.

What is more, two subsidiaries of state-owned China National Salt Industry Corporation (CNSG), also known as China Salt, have reportedly falsified accounts of their production volumes to evade inspectors.

The inspectors have also found that one of the units, CNSG Qinghai Kunlun Soda Industry, had “unlawfully” used 272 hectares (672 acres) of grassland as its waste water site, threatening nearby national nature reserves.

At the same time, individual local departments were reported to have turned a blind eye to the environmental problems in the salt lakes caused by unauthorised excavation, unauthorised tapping of groundwater as well as unlawful land use by state firms.

Local authorities were stated to have tried to pass the buck, blaming each other over the weak regulatory oversight.

The inspection team was stated to be just one of a number sent throughout the PRC last month as part of a new nationwide investigation into environmental compliance.

The Qinghai inspectors were led by Liu Wei, a deputy director of the Education, Science, Health and Sports Committee of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

The central government environmental inspection teams were first launched at the end of 2015 with the full authority of the Communist Party’s top leadership, reflecting concerns that the environment ministry itself was not powerful enough to tackle the problems on its own, the report said.

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