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Report: Mining jeopardizes fossil studies

By Yang Jun in Guiyang and Luo Wangshu in Beijing ( China Daily )

Updated: 2017-04-14

Mining activities have been halted at three sites in Guizhou province to preserve ancient animal fossils, a county government said.

Local mining has jeopardized the fossils of ancient animals and harmed scientific research, according to a report published recently by Science and Technology Daily.

Experts from the Guizhou Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources arrived in Weng'an county for a field survey on Tuesday, with the aim of creating a preservation plan.

"More preservation sites will be established based on the survey. The human eye cannot detect paleontology fossils. It requires experts with high-tech equipment to find and preserve such fossils," said Zhao Su'e, a spokeswoman for the county government.

Zhao said it is still unknown when the plan will be issued, because it is based on the progress of the survey.

In 1998, scientists found a large number of fossils of ancient creatures in Weng'an phosphorus ore sites dating back 610 million years that can help provide scientific evidence in the study of ancient life on Earth.

"It is the only site that provides evidence of the first forms of life on Earth. If it disappears, there will be nowhere to turn to for such scientific research," Zhu Maoyan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeonotology, told Science and Technology Daily.

Weng'an has rich phosphorus ore resources. In recent years, locals started open-pit mining on a large scale, with many ores being shipped out of the county.

According to the report, the phosphorus ore industry generates 60 percent of the county's revenue. The problem is that mining sites are located in mountains that often contain ancient fossils.

"Several ore pits from which we previously obtained high-quality fossil samples have collapsed naturally. As those areas are now buried, we cannot observe the layers of fossils and cannot obtain samples for scientific research," Yin Zongjun, from the Nanjing institute, was quoted as saying.

Contact the writers at luowangshu@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 04/14/2017 page4)

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