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Photo Slideshow: City of Coal on the Inner Mongolia Steppe

Xilinhot — an Inner Mongolian outpost of 177,000 residents, separated from Beijing by a 12-hour train ride — is at the center of the Xilin Gol Grassland, one of China’s largest prairies and livestock production regions. The north’s coal mines, trucks, and power plants are representative of the nation’s coal dependency, a lifeline with an insatiable thirst for water.

Wu Yun, 23, and her father, Bao Zhu, are agropastoral farmers on the brink of modernization. On one side, yurts and lambs. On the other, 300-meter-high (1,000-foot-high) buttes made of tailings from Datan International Shengli Mine, China’s largest brown coal mine, which officials say could become China’s largest open-pit mine in a few years.

Photographs by J. Carl Ganter, a Traverse City-based photojournalist and the director of Circle of Blue.

This slideshow was made to accompany Ganter’s article Energy Economy Brings Change to Shepherd Life: Modernization Comes to the Dry Grasslands of Inner Mongolia. Reach Ganter at

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