Huaping county had about 8,000 hectares of mountains containing coal mines from the mid-1980s to 2015, accounting for 20 percent of its uninhabited mountains, but mine closures have seen that figure fall to 6.7 percent. In 2019, the county produced 480,000 tons of coal, down about 81 percent from 2016, the county government said.
Over the past decade, most of the county's 46,000 coal workers have switched to planting mangoes or other agricultural produce, like peppers. For environmental protection purposes, the local government made a plan to transform its "black" energy-powered economy into a "green" one and began planting trees on the mountains in the 1990s.
Before choosing to become a mango farmer in 2000, Sun Shaohua worked for a coal mine in Huaping county for 10 years. He planted mango trees in 2000 on 9 hectares of mountainside land, but didn't reap a good harvest until 2014. Sun and his fellow villagers used to grow corn in the mountains while working for the mines, but the government encouraged them to plant mango trees instead for higher profits and environmental benefits, including soil stabilization.
"The transformation could not be accomplished overnight," Sun said. "But the long wait for fruit was worth it. It was time to embrace a green industry as the pollution from the mines impacted our daily lives. On rainy days, black water from coal mountains flowed nearly everywhere in the village."
According to epaper.chinadaily.com.cn, Sun earned more than 200,000 yuan ($30,580) in 2020, despite the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic.
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