updated 12/10/2009 2:55:46 PM ET 2009-12-10T19:55:46

Police in China have detained two gold miners accused of causing serious damage to one of the oldest sections of the Great Wall, state media said Thursday.

The Hohhot Kekao Mining Co. is suspected of destroying about 330 feet of the wall while prospecting for gold in Inner Mongolia, to the northwest of Beijing.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency said two of the company's project managers were detained Saturday.

The damage was discovered in September. Company officials could face up to 10 years in prison depending on the degree of damage, the head of the regional cultural relics bureau, Wang Dafang, told The Associated Press last month.

Directory assistance could find no listed phone number for Hohhot Kekao Mining Co.

The damaged section of the wall dates from the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.) and is far less grand than the heavily touristed stretches on the outskirts of Beijing.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site runs for about 4,000 miles across northern China. Built to keep out raids by northern tribes and extended by successive dynasties over 2,000 years, the Great Wall now faces threats from China's development.

Last year, five miners were jailed for up to three years for damaging the Inner Mongolia wall while using heavy machinery, the only people to be jailed under Great Wall preservation laws to date.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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