Chasing Mirages

Tag: erosion

Dongjiang Expedition Part 5: Rare earth hell

by on Nov.17, 2013, under Posts

China’s rare earth metal production is a complex issue with implications at every scale of governance, from tiny villages to international treaty organizations.  This recent NYTimes article provides a summary of the issue over the last few years.

Our journey into rare earth territory in northern Guangdong and southern Jiangxi provinces reminded me of the wild wild west I had read about as a kid – clandestine mining operations, gun battles between outlaw gangs struggling for territory and even violent clashes between artisanal miners and authorities trying to shut down illegal mines.

(continue reading…)

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by on Sep.08, 2011, under Quickies

Today’s post is dedicated to Stevie Nicks.

I’m in Laos! Today’s trip from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang should have taken about 6 hours.  Instead, it took about 9.5 thanks to this huge landslide.  Though they’re not all visible in this photo, there were 5 excavators working simultaneously to re-build the road.

If not for our driver having a friend on the other side of the landslide with whom he could exchange passengers, we would still be stuck there.  That road was in bad shape.  When we crossed the collapsed area by foot to reach the other van, I took one crazy step that ended with my entire lower leg submerged in mud.  Luckily, another passenger was there to help me pull out.  The ridiculous thing is, this happens often enough for them to have 5 excavators on hand.  There must be a more permanent and efficient solution.

I’m not sure if there’s any connection, but the mountains along the highway show evidence of slash-and-burn agriculture.  You can see the huge bald spots (lighter green) all over the mountains in the picture below.  I was surprised to see crops growing on such steep slopes.  The resulting erosion may contribute to mudslides like this one.

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