An industrial city at the centre of the rare earth minerals trade feeding global gadget desire has become so polluted it’s spawned a vast sludge filled five-mile-wide toxic lake.
Day and night pipes pump dirty waste into the unnatural poisonous soup surrounding the dystopian mines and steel works of Boatou, a settlement in central northern China.
More than two million people call this polluted environment home working in the factories and mine to extract co-called rare earth minerals.
The group of 17 chemically similar elements are crucial to the manufacture of many hi-tech products. Despite their name, most are abundant in nature but are very hazardous to extract.
At present China supplies almost 90 per cent of rare earths to the global market, and around Boatou, close to the Mongolian border, almost 70 per cent of the country’s deposits are found.
Rare earths can be found elsewhere in the world, but many countries baulk at the polluting processes needed to wrestle them from the earth.
In Boatou the legacy of global hunger for the minerals is evident in a massive wasteland of sludge left from the processing of the minerals, as well as mining for coal and from pollution from the steel works.
Damming a local river created the lake which is around is five miles wide and acts as a massive sump for all the unwanted sludge from the industry around it.
The body of what was once water is now so large, the black grey blob can be easily seen on Google maps like a huge poisonous boil on the landscape. Some of the massive pipelines that splurge contents into the lake can also be seen.
According to the BBC there is a gold rush atmosphere among the populace, which in 1950 numbered just 97,000, with many drawn to the region for work in the factory and mining wages.
Tim Maughan, who has written extensively about the lake, told ABC News today: “The artificial lake is a creation of the waste byproducts of rare earth mining, which retrieves essential minerals needed to create a lot of our tech gadgets.
“Our lust for things like smartphones, flat-screen televisions and ironically, even ‘green technology,’ is what’s created this lake. It’s just really disturbing.”
Sky News reported the pollution seeping into the surrounding countryside has caused people to become sick, with reports of higher prevalence of cancer and the bone condition skeletal fluorosis.