China`s resource-based cities have made tremendous contributions to national and local economic growth and urban development over the last seven decades. Recently, such cities have been in transition from resource-centered development towards human-oriented urbanization to meet the requirements of long-term sustainability for the natural environment and human society. A good understanding of urban expansion and evolution as a consequence of urbanization has important implications for future urban and regional planning. Using a series of remote sensing (RS) images and geographical information system (GIS)-based spatial analyses, this research explores how a typical resource-based mining city, Datong, has expanded and evolved over the last two decades (2000–2018), with a reflection on the role of urban planning and development policies in driving the spatial transformation of Datong. The RS images were provided and processed by the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform. Spatial cluster analysis approaches were employed to examine the spatial patterns of urban expansion. The results indicate that the area of urban construction land increased by 132.6% during the study period, mainly along with the Chengqu District, the Mining Area, and in the southeast of the Nanjiao District, where most new towns are located. Reflection on the factors that influence urban expansion shows that terrain, urban planning policies, and social economy are driving Datong`s urban development.