MAC/20: Mines and Communities

China shuts down coal mines and battles pollution

Published by MAC on 2014-04-06
Source: Reuters,

China to shut down 2,000 coal mines this year

Cecilia Jamasmie

4 April 2014

China will shut down roughly 2,000 small coal mines this year, with a total capacity of 117.48 million tonnes, as part of the Beijing's ongoing plan to reduce the alarming rates of air pollution and reduce the nation's dependency on the fossil fuel.

According to the National Energy Administration (NEA), the first small-scale mines to go will be those old and depleting ones, in the east of the country. The government will also consolidate production from operations located in remote parts, including the vast northwestern regions of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, Reuters reports.

At the same time, China aims to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its overall energy consumption to 10.7% in 2014, in an effort to further improve its energy efficiency, control energy consumption, optimize the energy mix and guarantee energy supply, said the NEA last month.

The idea of closing down mines is nothing new to China, which accounts for about 50% of the world's coal consumption. In 2012 alone Beijing shut down 628 medium-sized coal mines, improved technological processes of 622 mines, merged 388 mines and phased out 97.8 million tons of outdated production facilities.

Last October, the Chinese government vowed to close at least 2,000 small coal mines by 2015 over safety concerns. The news came only a month after it said it wouldn't allow more coal-fuelled installations near Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, in an effort to curb air pollution in the country's most industrial regions.

China's dependence on coal is well known. Annual consumption exceeded 1 billion short tons per year in 1988 and has exploded since then, to about 4 billion tons last year. This means the Asian giant gets about 70% of its energy from the fossil fuel, a number the government hopes to reduce to 65% by 2017.

China to shut down 1,725 small-scale coal mines


7 April 2014

BEIJING - China will close 1,725 small-scale mines with a total capacity of 117.48 million tonnes in 2014 as part of its programme to phase out low-quality coal production, its energy administration said on Friday.

Smog-hit China has been desperate to reduce coal consumption, a major source of pollutants, including hazardous airborne particulate matter in the country's cities.

Beijing hopes to close old and depleting mines in the east and consolidate output in a series of "coal energy bases" in remote parts of the country, including the vast northwestern regions of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.

The National Energy Administration said in a notice posted on its website ( that local governments must also encourage mergers and technological upgrades in a fragmented coal sector long plagued by poor safety standards.

They will be obliged to disclose the details of their pit closure programme to the public in order to improve enforcement.

Local governments have been under orders to gradually shut all coal mines with annual production capacity of less than 90,000 tonnes, as well as those mines that are operating illegally and do not comply with state safety requirements.

While China is determined to reduce the share of coal in its energy mix to less than 65 percent this year, its last five-year plan for the energy sector still allows for the construction of an additional 860 million tonnes of new coal production capacity over the 2011-2015 period.

China aims to cap total coal production at 4.1 billion tonnes by 2015, up from 3.7 billion tonnes in 2013, but some experts predict the actual figure will be much higher, given the number of new mine project approvals. (Reporting by David Stanway, editing by William Hardy)


China's war on smog will be won or lost in polluted Hebei

By David Stanway


31 March 2014

BEIJING - China's war on pollution is only a few weeks old, but the battle lines are already being drawn between Beijing and Hebei, the province most synonymous with dirty air.

A succession of Hebei officials used the annual session of parliament in Beijing this month to urge the central government to boost subsidies to help with job losses and other costs from mandated cuts in industrial production across the country. One local official said Hebei was taking on too much of the burden.

The pleas came after Premier Li Keqiang, in his opening address to parliament on March 5, declared war on pollution in an attempt to head off growing anger over the quality of China's air, water and soil.

Hebei, which surrounds Beijing in the country's north, was home to seven of China's 10 most polluted cities last year. Researchers blame its steel, coal and cement plants for some of the hazardous smog that increasingly envelops the capital.

It is seen as a test of China's determination to build a cleaner economy after a decades-long obsession with growth.

Gao Hongzhi, the Communist Party secretary of Handan, a key steel producing city, said Hebei was contributing 75 percent of the national reduction in steel capacity when it accounted for only a quarter of total output.

Hebei was also contributing 50 percent of coal consumption cuts and had been set emission reduction targets that were "much higher" than national levels, Gao told a meeting of parliamentary delegates in the days after Li spoke.

Such cuts in capacity in Handan alone would put 43,000 people out of work and cost 15 billion yuan in "asset losses", Gao said without elaborating.

"Once our tasks are completed, it won't just be good for Hebei or the region - it will have a big impact and will make a huge contribution to the entire country," Gao said at the meeting, which was attended by Reuters.

"We are asking for the state to provide policy support and funding to help with layoffs while we close outdated capacity and ease overproduction."

Hebei has pledged to cut steel capacity by 60 million tonnes, more than a fifth of its total, from 2013 to the end of 2017. Coal consumption would be slashed by 40 million tonnes, around 15 percent of the total. It has also promised to cut major pollutants by around 25 percent.

Wang Yifang, former chairman of China's biggest steelmaker, Hebei Iron and Steel, called for a stronger "subsidy mechanism" to cover the cost of shutdowns, according to documents made available by parliament.

Wang Zengli, chairman of the Hebei branch of the state-backed All China Federation of Trade Unions, urged the government to provide funds for high-tech sectors.

Painful Process

Hebei's Communist Party chief, Zhou Benshun, suggested the province would get help.

"The structural adjustments are certainly going to be painful, but we can work to ease that pain as quickly as possible," he said at the meeting of parliamentary delegates.

Beijing has already been paying compensation for several years to firms across China that demolish outdated steel facilities to meet new technical standards. The cuts to capacity are on top of that.

Local governments have already begun to shut old plants under the new targets, most recently the demolition of 6.71 million tonnes of iron smelting capacity in late February across Hebei.

Handan had closed eight steel smelters since last year, Gao said.

"This has brought about a series of problems that will affect social stability," he said.

While local officials said Hebei was making a sacrifice, environmentalists say it has been given a free ride for too long, routinely allowing its industries to beat rivals by ignoring environmental regulations and industrial standards imposed by Beijing.

Critics also say Beijing has long turned a blind eye to Hebei's excesses to avoid the risk of unemployed steel workers spilling over into the already strained capital.

With at least 16 steel firms stopping production, according to remarks by the Hebei governor earlier this month, those employment pressures have arrived.

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