Heiyoushan, Karamay

The Relics of Empire: Resource Extraction and the Making of Modern Xinjiang

Heiyoushan, Karamay

Heiyoushan, or Black Oil Mountain, is a hot and dusty site 150 miles north of Dushanzi, in the northern suburbs of Karamay City, squeezed between the apartment towers ubiquitous in many large Xinjiang towns and the wide-open steppe. Here, sticky black pools of crude bubble and leak all over the small hill. Tour buses discharge tourists eager to catch a glimpse of the oil springs that put Karamay on the map. The bubbling pools, a tide pool in the massive “oil sea” said to sit beneath the Zungharian Basin, are what first attracted Soviet geologists and oil technicians to this desolate area.