Inside one of China’s largest iron mines

The open pit mine at Ma'anshan in north-east China is in one of the country's main steel production regions

The city of Ma’anshan in Anhui province is said to be the place where the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai drowned after attempting to embrace a reflection of the moon. The city’s other association is less romantic – since the 1930s the town’s main industry has been mining. Whilst the region was under Japanese occupation an iron and steel works was opened in 1938, which was made possible by the construction of a railroad and the opening of the Huai-nan coalfield.

Although destroyed at the end of the Second World War, production was restored in 1953. After that the mines grew rapidly under the first and second Five-Year Plans. Ma’anshan also has sulfur and limestone mines, and chemical and cement factories. Though the mine in this picture is being decommissioned, Ma’anshan continues to expand its role as a centre of steel production, though in recent years it has struggled with falling steel prices and raw material costs. In 2012 the profits of China’s steel companies dropped 95% compared to the previous year.

Photos by Xu Jianping