A new inspection of natural resources problems in regions along the Yangtze and Yellow rivers will be launched to protect the environment and their ecosystems, the Ministry of Natural Resources said on Wednesday.
Li Jiangtao, deputy head of the ministry's enforcement department, said it will soon issue a circular to urge natural resources departments in regions along the two rivers to conduct comprehensive inspection and rectification.
He said the inspection will make ecosystem protection a priority, and highlight enforcement in key areas covered by the Yangtze River Protection Law, which took effect on March 1.
Areas within 3 kilometers of the two rivers will be the initial focus of the fight against illegal activities, he said.
The circular will also highlight enforcement efforts related to key industries and projects, including the chemical industry, coking, landfill, hazardous chemical storage, mining, processing and smelting, and tailings ponds, which may have significant adverse impacts on local ecosystems, Li said.
"We will focus on verifying whether there is illegal land use and illegal mining of mineral resources in these projects and investigate and deal with illegal activities promptly," he said.
Major, commonly seen violations, such as the illegal occupation of arable land, open-pit mining and mining of strategic minerals will also be targeted. Those suspected of criminal offenses will be transferred to judicial organs, Li said.
The ministry and provinces along the two rivers recently verified reports related to illegal activities involving natural resources, and issued details of 14 typical cases.
In one case, two men in Hequ county, Shanxi province, who had no mining licenses, mined over 4,000 metric tons of bauxite and iron clay in the name of exploration projects without authorization from May to June last year.
In June, the local natural resources bureau received reports from the public and investigated the case. It confiscated the illegally mined minerals and imposed an administrative penalty of 30,000 yuan ($4,600) on the two men.
One of the men was sentenced to prison for three years with three years' probation and fined 30,000 yuan in December for illegal mining, and the other was sentenced to prison for three years with four years' probation and fined 40,000 yuan.
In March, the Ministry of Natural Resources issued a notice urging natural resources departments at all levels to compare previous and current images taken by video surveillance, satellite remote sensing systems and drones to bust illegal activities related to natural resources.
The Ministry of Public Security launched a one-year operation targeting illegal sand mining in the Yangtze River in February. By April 1, police in regions along the river had resolved 87 such criminal cases involving more than 30 million yuan and had arrested more than 280 suspects.