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In depth: Coal, once a boon, turns Chinese rustbelt city into a bust

Over-dependence on mining sinks fortunes of Hegang in northeast China

Residential buildings in the Chinese city of Hegang in 2020. The city had a thriving economy during the coal industry's "golden decade" from 2003 to 2012.   © Reuters

When internet giant NetEase offered a free apartment in the city of Hegang as part of a marketing gimmick to promote online game Nishuihan, it was a sign the once-prosperous coal-mining hub in northeast China had reached rock bottom.

The winner was even given the option of cashing in the 89-sq.-meter or larger apartment for 50,000 yuan ($7,858) just in case they did not fancy moving to the city of 891,271 people in Heilongjiang Province, some 50 km southwest of the Russian border.

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