What West Virginia is to the United States, Shanxi Province is to China. Much of the coal that has powered the Asian nation’s industrial revolution was dug from Shanxi’s myriad mines.
But dependence on a single, non-renewable resource is risky business, so the province is actively exploring alternative enterprises, such as big data and tourism. In 2012, the Datong Coal Mine Group turned some of its depleted pits into museums, inviting visitors to don mining helmets and boots and explore the dystopian landscape.
The province has also begun deliberately dialing down its coal production, shuttering 88 of its 1,078 coal mines since 2016. Thousands of miners have lost their jobs in the process, but officials say the painful transition is necessary to