David Randall: The mine that (nearly) swallowed a city becomes a tourist idyll

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The Independent Online

One of the most appalling scars on the global landscape looks as if it is about to be transformed. The Haizhou open-cast mine in north-eastern Liaoning province is, today, a very ugly place. Some 50 years of gouging rock and coal from the earth have left a vast crater two and a half miles wide and 300 metres deep, which is visible from space. So big is this hole, and so great the subsidence it has caused locally, that it has even undermined the foundations of the nearby city of Fuxin. But next year the mining here will finally end. After 50 years of causing the most dire pollution (the air hereabouts is always heavy with sulphurous smells), the mine will close and be turned into a national tourist attraction, complete with woods, streams, parkland and playgrounds.

China's reliance on coal – it has little gas and oil – is huge. The fossil fuel supplies more than 70 per cent of the country's power needs; and so vast are the coal-mining and burning industries that 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China. This dependence will continue for many decades, but the plan for Haizhou is a sign of changing Chinese attitudes to the environment, as is last week's supplanting of the United States as the world's largest installer of wind power. There are even predictions that China could, by 2020, be producing enough energy from wind to replace 200 conventional power stations.

* Here's a first, and maybe one that might eventually send a much-needed tremor of reality through the film industry. South Korean movie director Park Chan-Wook, something of a dab hand, my cultural colleagues assure me, has just made the first cinema-standard film shot entirely on an iPhone. Well, two of them, to be precise, but that is all it took to make his 30-minute short telling the story of an encounter between a fisherman and a female medium. The Cannes award-winning director's movie took a mere 10 days to complete, used only 80 people, and cost just £84,200. By way of comparison, James Cameron's Avatar took years, employed enough people to populate a large town, and cost £164m.

* Anyone considering booking a holiday in Mexico might like to consider the newly released 2010 statistics for drug-related crime. Each week here, our jaws drop open in disbelief as new standards in psychotic violence are set. Last Saturday it was the discovery of 14 headless corpses, a few months ago it was a man whose face had been skinned and sewn on to a football. One would like to think these incidents were mere urban myths. But they are not. Last year, murders related to the drug cartels reached 15,273 – nearly 60 per cent higher than 2009. Over the past four years, there have been 30,913 execution-style killings, 3,153 deaths in gang shootouts, and 546 in other attacks. Of course, most of this mayhem takes place well away from the tourist resorts and trails. But if the world voted with its holiday bookings and declined to visit the country until it had got a grip, one suspects that hitherto insoluble problems would swiftly begin to be addressed.

* We are grateful to trutv.com for the most entertaining read of the week: "22 Dumbest Things People Do on Facebook". Highlights include: telling people your house is empty; pausing during your wedding ceremony to update your marital status, as Maryland groom Dana Hanna did; posting every time a famous person dies; talking about how much you hate your job/boss/ partner; posting pictures of yourself whooping it up while taking a sickie; and breaking into a house, using the computer to access your Facebook account, and forgetting to log out (as Jonathan G Parker did in September 2009).

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