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A gold mining firm is being investigated after part of one of the oldest sections of the Great Wall of China was damaged during prospecting.|
About 100 metres of the wall was badly damaged, and investigators from the Chinese government and regional police now plan to bring charges.
The damage was originally discovered in September and work halted, but officials later found it had restarted.
The damaged section, in Inner Mongolia, dates from the Qin Dynasty (BC221).
Hohhot Kekao Mining Company is alleged to have knocked two holes, covering a total area of 300 sq m, through the Wall.
The head of the regional cultural relics bureau, Wang Dafang, told the Associated Press news agency that the damage was "irreparable".
"Some people think the only part of the Great Wall that needs to be protected is in Beijing," said Mr Wang.
"But although the Inner Mongolia wall is more modest, it carries the same significance."
Police in Hohhot City, the capital of Inner Mongolia, are now collecting evidence. Company officials could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
China has special laws to prevent damage to the wall, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Five miners were jailed last year for damaging part of the Inner Mongolia wall, the only people jailed to date under the preservation laws.
The wall, built by a number of emperors over many centuries, extends in different sections more than 8,850km (5,487 miles) across northern China.