Viewed from the air, the piles of rubble surrounding the Changsheng Rock Material Factory in Xintai, China, don’t really look like rolling hills of grass. But they’re supposed to. The sprawling mounds of excavated materials have been spray-painted green in an attempt to deceive environmental authorities into thinking the mine is blanketed with lush foliage, according to Sixth Tone. But in reality, the whole area just looks like it’s covered in painted rocks.
Factory workers reportedly started spray-painting the rocks last year on the instruction of company officials, who believed satellite images would show a green area around the site and mislead authorities into thinking environmental regulations were being met. The cover-up was unsuccessful. Last week, the plant failed an assessment by Xintai’s environment bureau, who shut down the facility, suspended the people in charge, and gave them a one-month deadline to remove the green-coloured rubble from the area.
When asked why the rocks were painted green, an accountant at the mine allegedly admitted it was done to evade inspection, the Global Times reports.
Although the mine site, which occupies more than 7,000 square meters, has since posted a sign at the main entrance saying that production has “discontinued," local reports claim that work is still underway, with trucks coming and going from the site and machines digging a pit measuring about 100 metres deep. Zhao Shugang, deputy secretary of the Xintai Municipal Party Committee and mayor of Xintai, described the Changsheng Rock Material Factory as “a company without conscience.”
China’s governments have attempted to clamp down on industrial pollution in recent years, introducing various environmental measures and carrying out surprise inspections at factories, mines, and processing sites. Last year, more than 42,000 people were charged for environmental offences and issued fines totalling 15.28 billion yuan ($3.25 billion AUD).
It’s possible that whoever gave the order to turn Changsheng into a quasi-verdant pile of rubble was inspired by China’s Laoshou mountain, which in 2007 had its entire side painted green at an estimated cost of 470,000 yuan ($100,000 AUD), The New York Times reports. In that case, villagers speculated that the paint job was an attempt at "greening" the area in keeping with calls for more attention to environmental protection. Others suggested that local officials were trying to change the feng shui of the area.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.