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China The Military Idle

What Did Google Earth Spot In the Chinese Desert? 257

New submitter snooz_crash writes "An Ex-CIA analyst requests your assistance in IDing a base that he has been observing for quite a while. The base has been in existence for several years, but its shape and location do not lead to an immediate answer to the riddle of 'what the heck is it?'"
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What Did Google Earth Spot In the Chinese Desert?

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Thursday January 10, 2013 @05:24PM (#42551141) Journal
    Disclaimer: I've never done anything like this. Well, this structure is pretty unique [] in its shape. Judging by the shadow, it's pretty high up and probably serves the most distinct purpose? It almost looks like that might be a prison yard in the middle with a fence in the back? If you're going to make a building that large and use it for office space, why make that shape? Why not just a rectangular or square building? It could also maybe be the beginnings of an airport or air base with that structure being the tower and the field to be built in front of the flat side of the U. The other sites might be hangars?

    If it's a prison, the other sites might be places for arrays of solar panels or perhaps mining sites with the intent of prisoners working on those things. I mean, when you're that far out are you going to make a run for it? The electricity and/or ore would be for nearby Kashgar, Xinjiang?

    If any of that were true, I have no clue what this stuff would be though []. It looks like the upper left of that has had dirt pushed around to level out the ground for something to be built on top of it though. This went up fast but you might have to give it another year or two before it starts to take shape?
  • by choprboy ( 155926 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @06:14PM (#42551749) Homepage

    I don;t think that is very unique at all... Given a layman's construction viewpoint of the surrounding structures, this would appear to be an industrial/earthworks park, not a military base. The structure looks like a simple shed in a large "U" shape, with an entrance gate in the center. This is very reminiscent of the grand walls and entries you see in lots of Chinese structures, even in otherwise mundane industrial settings. You can see a similar structure here [] missing most of its roof.

    Looking around the site, this seems to be a series of 4 brick making facilities, which are mostly in a state of disrepair. Lot the distinctive features:
    - The site is on the edge of a plateau to two distinct soil types.
    - The site has large scraped areas and ramps down into the secondary soil type to the north (many of which have subsequently been eroded away).
    - The site has piles of earth (apparently from the scraped areas), adjacent to the building sites.
    - There are multiple excavators [] and front end [] loaders [], as well as dumptrucks [] and associated equipment [].
    - There are long rows of parallel molds [] set out to dry in the sun.
    - There are additional areas that look to have been indoor (heated?) drying areas in now delapidated buildings. []
    - There are extra [] (unused) molds [] stacked in adjacent areas.
    - There is an old power station which probably fed all the facilities when in full productions, but most seem to be derelict today. []
    - There are no apparent gaurd gates, road blocks, or fences/walls enclosing these surrounding areas... just an open road back to the farmland and local villages.
    - There are no apparent army trucks, equipment, bunkers, runways, or barracks anywhere in the area.

    Conclusion... This is a series of mud/clay brick making facilities, now mostly in a state of disrepair. The 2 (of about 5 or 6 separate facilities) that appear to have some remaining functionality no longer have production buildings or significant equipment remaining, just open air minimal facilities. Look at any old/disused mining sites in the American southwest deserts and you will see similar features.

  • Re:Factory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @06:36PM (#42552013)

    look like what I imagine two coal fired power units under construction would look like.

    Its probably just a mining operation, of some kind because there is no major transport, no huge power lines, no stacks, convener belt systems. (Coal fired plants would have all of those, and aren't nearly so spread out).

    No major rail lines.
    No paved roads, just low traffic low speed gravel roads (90 degree corners etc).
    Only the eastern most group of buildings seems to be fenced

    There are "tailing pile" looking like humps, but not nearly enough for this to be a high burden mine requiring massive material removal, unless they are dumping the tailing back down the mine. There appear to be fields of spread out tailings with lots of bulldozer marks just east of the blue topped building.

    The lack of security, transport, massive power, and distance to population centers (which themselves are not that big) all suggest small mining operations, perhaps by several different organizations.

    Nothing was there in 2009, so it may be still in the process of drilling to deep ore bodies, and not actually in production yet.
    The thing about desert areas is every little truck track shows up forever.

  • Re:Factory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @06:43PM (#42552117)
    THe fact it's in a dessert made me think that it's a building to house water. Not a water tower or indoor artificial lake, but maybe a waste treatment plant or something like that. You need to build infrastructure to support people if you are going to build towns and cities, and China is building ghost cities in preparation for the upcoming global crisis (when the US collapses, SSEZ - Shenzhen, will go down with it - so much of that area is dedicated to Hong Kong production and US company outsourcing, and the millions living there - many illegals, will want to flee). So having pre-built cities that are empty, something the US sees as stupid, will let the government step in and give 10,000,000 jobs to people to run the empty cities, then millions more will follow them with services and support, cleaning out the localities that are in crisis. They don't have enough space for the people flocking to the cities now, so expanding, even if only by pre-making cities, makes sense. At least, it will in 10 years when the US defaults on the debt and the world economy routes around the damage.
  • Further thoughts... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @08:43PM (#42553089)

    As is often the case, heavy metals can occur in mixed deposits--several different kinds of minerals in one deposit.

    After looking through the images more closely, something stood out that I should have noticed immediately--this isn't one facility, but four. They simply share a resource deposit. Look near the dike and it is obvious that each section has it's own access road up and over the dike where they become inter-connected by a wide road that extends the full length of the images.

    If you'll look at one of the images that shows the entire facility, you'll notice that the rectangular area that contains structures is roughly divided into four mostly equal areas. Each of these areas has totally different structures--the left most has the "shakers" and the the building I suggested might contain individual centrifuges. The next area contains only the long buildings, but also has neat rows of processed materials, perhaps the tailings from testing these structures. The next area has a large single facility, maybe suggesting a more refined process or merely the desire to keep our eyes off of the more telling equipment. The right-most image shows yet another sort of facility that combines the long row buildings with an adjacent building of moderate size.

    Perhaps the Chinese have located a region rich in numerous materials, each requiring a different method of processing, and this odd facility is simply co-located because the ore is of mixed content.

    Another aspect that backs up a dry-mining location is the fact that there is a sizable community just "down-stream" from the facility--dry-mining techniques (including the recycling of centrifuge slurry) would prevent waste from entering the waterways located near that community, provided that tailings were redeposited on the opposite side of the dike after processing.

  • Re:Factory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @08:51PM (#42553141)

    "... but there isn't a lot of earth-moving equipment around, not much ground has been disturbed yet..."

    Actually, there is. Most of it is located in the lighter area towards the top of the map--it is hard to see them, but that place is littered with many little roads. Most of these end at some excavation--the deposits are coming from the top of the map and are then being brought down these roads to the facilities.

    Aye, I noticed the water as well. But it is already being used for the very reasons you stated--irrigation and the town downstream. Wet-mining uses massive amounts of water and leaves you with lakes of toxic slurry to get rid of--there is nowhere to get rid of something like that but flush it downstream right into town. Dry-mining solves this issue.

    The "U"-shaped building has a pretty extensive ramp going up the dike to the row buildings--It wouldn't surprise me if a large conveyor belt is constructed down this ramp, connecting the two structures.

  • Re:Factory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @04:33AM (#42555651)

    What exactly do you mean by 'light' socialism, and why do you think it is the answer (presumably the question was "which government will survive?").

    Single payer health care is cheaper and better than what the US has now. As such, collective health care is like cheaper and better insurance. And so many programs like Head Start saves more money than it costs, so even a libertarian should like it, as it results in an overall smaller government. I consider myself a libertarian, but I agree with Libertarians on just about nothing. The issue is that I'm not the kind that believes in toll sidewalks and 100% private roads. Some things, like the post office, are socialist, and still explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. It always amuses me when the rabid constitutionalists ignore the parts of the Constitution they don't like. The libertarian fore-fathers *knew* there were some things the government should do. Like the post. And if they were doing it today, I firmly believe that they'd put health care in that lot. We all pay for the post offices and post roads. Communistic libertarians.

    You do need to bribe them with their own money. "If you vote for me, I'll cut your health care costs in half - *and* improve the quality of care." Voting in UK-style NIH would do that, and that's a good bribe. "If you vote me in, I'll tax everyone but you and send you a check for $10,000,000" is a bad bribe. Bribing people with efficient government isn't a bribe. We don't have to deliver the worst possible government to pretend it isn't a bribe. The police are a "bribe", and even the most libertarian Libertarian believes in at least that one service, right?

    I have trouble discussing what Libertarians belive. I've joined 3 different local LPs, but whenever I discuss my issues with them, someone on Slashdot asserts that it never happened because my characterizations were so far off from what they would like the LP message to be. I try to stick to libertarians (with the small L, and no P). but the problem there is I'm the opposite of the LP, but consider myself to be libertarian. There is apparently no such thing as a libertarian that believes in responsibility.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!