Dark Mountain

Jilong Mountain and the ruins of the Shuinandong Smelter.

A couple of days ago I mounted my fifth expedition to the ruins of the Thirteen Levels 十三層遺址, formally known as the Shuǐnǎndòng Smelter 水湳洞精鍊廠 in Ruifeng on the outskirts of Keelung 基隆. Pictured here are the ruins of a massive mining operation with Jīlóng Mountain 基隆山 and the hillside community of Shuǐnǎndòng 水湳洞 in the background. The building to the left contains offices and a laboratory of some kind, likely for testing the material quality of whatever had reached this stage of processing. If I am not mistaken the structures in the foreground allow for that same material to be loaded into carts below for transportation downslope.

By the way, the name of this piece is an oblique reference to the Dark Mountain Project, which aims to confront the reality of “an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling”. Exploring ruins on the scale of the Thirteen Levels is a poignant reminder of the impermanence of human civilization. One reason I am so fascinated by such places is that they provide a glimpse of what the world might look like after we’re gone.

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