the world’s largest mine tailings pond

 40.638902, 109.683631

40.638902, 109.683631 (ed. note: notice what appears to be an ore processing/factory complex to right of “pond”)

Discovered via this NYT article re: the toxic legacy of China’s exploration of rare earth minerals.

We read;

Whole villages between the city of Baotou and the Yellow River in Inner Mongolia have been evacuated and resettled to apartment towers elsewhere after reports of high cancer rates and other health problems associated with the numerous rare earth refineries there….Most of that waste has been dumped into the world’s largest mine tailings pond, which covers four square miles near the Yellow River on the western outskirts of Baotou.

Built in the 1950s under Mao Zedong, the tailings pond lacks a liner to prevent the leaking of radioactive waste and toxins into the groundwater, where they have been gradually seeping toward the Yellow River. There is no evidence that the waste and toxins have reached the river, but the Chinese government plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars pumping out as much contaminated groundwater as possible and pumping enormous quantities of fresh water into the earth to dilute what is left before it reaches the Yellow River“.

Decontaminating Fukushima Prefecture


To judge the huge scale of what Japan is contemplating, consider that experts say residents can return home safely only after thousands of buildings are scrubbed of radioactive particles and much of the topsoil from an area the size of Connecticut is replaced.

Even forested mountains will probably need to be decontaminated, which might necessitate clear-cutting and literally scraping them clean.

The Soviet Union did not attempt such a cleanup after the Chernobyl accident of 1986, the only nuclear disaster larger than that at Fukushima Daiichi. The government instead relocated about 300,000 people, abandoning vast tracts of farmland.

Many Japanese officials believe that they do not have that luxury; the evacuation zone covers more than 3 percent of the landmass of this densely populated nation.

More via the NYT here by Martin Fackler, also see this news item posted to Archinect by myself  The Involuntary park or home: images of the Fukushima Dai-ichi’s exclusion zone