The biggest factory in the world is in China

The Biggest factory in China

18th June 2013

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Tibet’s environment

In recent years, China’s exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources has gathered pace significantly. Tibetans have no power to protect their own land and must watch the economic benefits of its resources flow out of their country.


The Tibetan plateau, dubbed the “Third Pole”, holds the third largest store of water-ice in the world and is the source of many of Asia’s rivers. The glaciers, snow peaks, rivers, lakes, forest and wetlands of Tibet provide major environmental services to Asia, from Pakistan to Vietnam to northern China.

Tibetan climate generates and regulates monsoon rains over Asia.

An estimated 70% of China’s own water is polluted from uncontrolled dumping of chemicals. Instead of dealing with this the Chinese government is diverting water from Tibet to north and west China to supply over 300 million Chinese people.

It is also damming rivers to generate hydroelectricity which is in turn used to power industrial developments in China.

Dams on rivers and their major tributaries cause massive interruptions to wild mountain rivers and the ecosystems dependent on them. They also give China strategic power over neighbouring countries.


Chinese government owned mining companies are quickening their extraction of copper, gold and silver in Tibet. These mines are usually based close to rivers.

Tibet is also rich in other resources including lead, zinc, molybdenum, asbestos, uranium, chromium, lithium and much more. Tibet is China’s only source of chromium and most of its accessible lithium is in Tibet. These raw materials are used in manufacturing of household goods, computers and smart phones, among much else.

China is the world’s largest producer of copper and the world’s second biggest consumer of gold. The World Gold Council predicts that the consumption in China will double within a decade. Tibet’s reserves of copper and gold are worth nearly one trillion dollars.

Chinese companies have traditionally mined on a small scale but now large scale extractions are taking place, mainly by large companies, owned by or with close links to the state.

Most workers in Tibetan mines are Chinese and the extraction takes place without regard to the local environment and areas of religious significance. Most of Tibet is vulnerable to earthquakes and highly volatile. Threats posed by this instability are exacerbated by mining and damming projects. Tibetans have frequently protested against mining projects, including the fatal anti-mining protest of Phakpa Gyaltsen in May 2014.

Tibet’s resistance

Tibetans will have to bear the environmental costs and are not permitted to establish NGOs to give voice to environmental concerns. Nor will Tibetan communities receive royalties from these projects. Tibetans regularly protest against mining and other environmentally destructive practices (see video below), such as the relocation of nomads.

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The Biggest factory in China and maybe worldwide… movie recorded in the East region of China and Tibet. The footage shows a huge factory located on the train line train Shanghai – Lhasa (April 2013)

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As a freelance travel photographer, Michel Piccaya has been on the road worldwide for more than 20 years, exploring the most incredible itineraries. He’s currently based in Brussels however never stays at home for a long time !

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