Tens of thousands of coal miners are expected to find jobs in the agricultural sector in Fuxin City of northeast China's Liaoning Province after being laid-off when the mines closed.
Faced with exhaustion of coal resources, this coal town is faced with the tough task of shutting down most of its mines. Nearly 400,000 coal miners and their families are involved, making up 50 per cent of the city's population.
Fuxin was already dealt a blow last year, when three large mines shut down, leaving 100,000 miners out of jobs.
Plagued by a large number of unemployed workers, Fuxin is one of the most poverty-stricken cities in Liaoning Province.
The number of the unemployed in the city has reached 199,800 and 95,300 people live at poverty level.
Sources from the Fuxin Coal Mining Bureau said several more mines are set to close this year, which will plummet another 100,000 pitmen and their families into tough times.
"We will spare no efforts in cultivating new industry to absorb the large number of laid-off workers, which is of utmost importance in ensuring the city's social stability and sustainable development," said Fuxin Mayor Yao Zhiping.
Yao said the city will give top priority to the development of modern agriculture industry and related tertiary industry in the next 10 years.
About 100,000 laid-off miners are expected to find jobs in the agriculture sector in the next five years.
"The city is endowed with rich fertile land, and the development of the agriculture industry does not require much initial investment or a lot of technological or specialized know-how," said Cao Yuan, vice-mayor of Fuxin.
Cao said they will focus on the development of animal husbandry and the planting and processing of flowers, mushrooms and vegetables.
The city will encourage leading agricultural enterprises, research institutions and laid-off workers to work together to promote agricultural industrialization and its market.
A State-level agricultural scientific and technological park has already been established in the city.
Zhao Chungui, a veteran coal miner from the city's Coal Mining Bureau, said most laid-off miners are in great need of training for re-employment. The city has yet to work out schedules.
Some 30,000 laid-off workers are expected to receive free training courses on modern agriculture this year, according to government officials.
(China Daily March 2, 2002)