Jason Lee / Reuters A damaged wall inside an abandoned cave house in the deserted Liu Guanshuang village of Datong, Shanxi Province, China, August 14, 2016.
Jason Lee / Reuters
Jason Lee / Reuters
Jason Lee / Reuters Li Yonghua, 65, stands in front of her damaged cave house in Helin village of Xiaoyi, Shanxi province, China, August 14, 2016.
Jason Lee / Reuters Tree trunks are set up to support a leaning wall of Li Yonghua's damaged cave house in an area where land is sinking next to a coal mine in Helin village of Xiaoyi, Shanxi province, China, August 14, 2016.
Jason Lee / Reuters An abandoned workers' dormitory is seen next to a coal mine in Yong Dingzhuang village of Datong, Shanxi province, China, August 14, 2016.
Jason Lee / Reuters Abandoned houses are seen in an area where land is sinking near a coal mine in Kouquan township of Datong, Shanxi province, China, August 14, 2016.
Jason Lee / Reuters A coal mine on the outskirt of Xiaoyi, China's Shanxi province.
Jason Lee / Reuters A resettlement for residents who once lived in areas that were sinking from the coal mines, Xiaoyi city, China's Shanxi province, China, August 14, 2016.

The Chinese Villages Undermined By Overmining

In the central Chinese province of Shanxi, decades of careless coal mining have so exhausted the earth that it can no longer hold the dozens of villages that sit above it. But being swallowed by the ground takes time, and it is a concern often eclipsed by more immiment dangers: earthquakes and landslides, or what Chinese officials call "geological incidents." Over the course of one year, there were 55 landslides in Helin village alone, and by the latest official count for the first seven months of 2014, there were 26,000 mine-triggered disasters. The Chinese government plans to relocate nearly half a million of the remaining residents to newly built settlements by the end of the year. This effort will cost over $2 billion, not to mention the $11.6 billion in environment-related economic losses that will have to be absorbed. That, perhaps, is the price of cheap coal.

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