MAC: Mines and Communities

China Update

Published by MAC on 2006-12-01

China Update

1st December 2006

* Two mine managers have been jailed for their part in the Chenjiashan Coal Mine disaster two years ago which cost the lives of 166 mineworkers. But a spate of fatalities at coal mines over the past few weeks provides little confidence that the "accident" rate is diminishing (see story below)

* Four months ago on MAC we announced that a mining company had been temporarily halted in its plans to construct a copper mine at Yulong in China-occupied Tibet, because of fears that its operations would contaminate a lake. Now another company - Continental Minerals has been told by the regime that it won't be able to access hydropower from another lake for its Xietongmen gold and copper mine in the so-called "Ganzi Autonomous" region., because "tourism could be more profitable".

But this won't stop either the regime or mining companies continuing to invade the country , both to grab minerals and construct hydro-power stations to feed their energy needs.

The London and Hong Kong listed Datang Power ( a subsidiary of the eponymous China state company) has said it has already signed a deal to build two big hydropower plants in Ganzi at a cost of RMB 22.5 billion ($2.85 billion). And South China Resources (registered on the London AIM) told Interfax news agency at the end of November that the company " would certainly consider developing deposits in Tibet with local partners".

The biggest single shareholder in South China Resources is global investment bank, JP Morgan Chase, with 15% of the equity.

* Rio Tinto is up to its old tricks. It's "advising" the Chinese regime on all aspects of the state's mining policy. This of course is par for the course for Rio which, both on its own and through its sponsored Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Policy and Law at Dundee University, has been engineering foreign investment-friendly mineral codes for nearly thirty years

* Australia's Sino Gold and Gold Fields of South Africa are joining forces to explore China's potentially large gold reserves, the two companies announced.

*Merill Lynch is hopping mad at pollution from Hong Kong's coal fired power plants. Because its making the citizens sick? No - because it's harming the "property sector " and scaring off "global talent." And that would be bad for business... (see story below)

* Australian scientists confirm that global emissions of carbon dioxide are increasing at more than double the rate they were a decade ago. But don't blame (only) the Chinese. While China's rate of acceleration in GGE emissions is the highest of any country, its emissions per person are still below the global average.

And China's accumulated contributions to CO2 emissions since 1800 have, say the scientists, been only 5% of the global total - while the contributions of the US and Europe have each been five times higher. (see below)

[Additional information for this update comes from Interfax China news, November 17-December 1 2006]

Two managers of Chenjiashan Coal Mine jailed for negligence; more deaths in recent coal mine accidents

Report compiled by China Labour Bulletin

30th November 2006

Two coal mine bosses were sentenced to prison for negligence causing an accident that killed 166 miners in Shaanxi province two years ago.

The gas explosion at Chenjiashan Coal Mine in Tungchuan city, Shaanxi province, was one of the worst coal mine disasters in decades. The pit had caught fire about one week before the accident, but miners were forced to go down to work in the mine.

Liu Shuangming, former director of the coal mine, was jailed for five years and six months and Wang Youjun, former deputy director and chief engineer, was jailed for five years.

Liu and Wang had asked the miners to go down to work in the pits despite being of the risks of their lives, the Yaozhou District People's Court of Tongchuan city heard. "After the fire was put out, [they] ordered the miners to risk their lives resuming production without sufficient safety measures," Xinhua said. "Their action was extremely outrageous."

A total of 293 miners were working underground when the deadly blast hit the Chenjiashan Coal Mine on 28 November 2004. Only 127 miners who were working near the entrance were rescued, including 45 who were injured in the explosion.

The accident caused a direct economic loss of nearly 42 million yuan (US$5.2 million), Xinhua News Agency reported.

Liu and Wang were only arrested by police on 9 December last year, one year after the accident. The Chenjiashan Coal Mine is a state-owned enterprise with 3,400 employees and its annual production capacity amounts to 2.6 million tons.

Also on 29 November, the Changji Intermediate People's Court in Xinjiang upheld a lower court's decision in June to sentence five managers and technicians at Shenlong Coal Mine in Fukang county to jail terms of three to six years for a gas explosion that killed 83 miners in July last year.

Despite the central government's repeated orders to close small coal mines, more coal mine accidents occurred in the past few days, claiming about 100 lives:

A gas explosion hit the Changuyuan Coal Mine in Fuyang in Yunnan province on 25 November, killing 32 miners. A total of 97 miners were changing shifts at that time. Thirty-seven managed to escape unhurt and 28 were injured.

As of 28 November, 25 miners were confirmed dead after an explosion occurred on 26 November at the Yuanhua Coal Mine in Jixi city, Heilongjiang province, when 40 miners were working underground. Nine escaped unhurt, four were rescued and two were still missing.

A gas blast hit Luweitan Colliery in Linfen city, Shanxi province, on 26 November, killing all 24 miners underground.

Eleven workers who were sorting impurities from a coal heap were buried when the heap collapsed at the Shuicheng Coal Mine Group colliery in Guizhou province on 27 November. Seven workers died and four were rescued.

Seven miners died after an explosion took place on 26 November at the Lianying Coal Mine, an illegally operating mine, in Yongshan town, Leping city, Jiangxi province. Seven miners at a nearby coal mine suffered burns.

Eleven miners were killed in a gas blast on 29 November in the No. 1 pit in Tanshanling town, Wuwei city, Gansu province. Thirty-eight people were working in four sections. The dead all belonged to the third section.

Sources: Xinhua News Agency (28 November 2006, 29 November 2006), South China Morning Post (29 November 2006), People's Daily (30 November 2006)

China Plans to Cut Back on Small-Scale Power Plants

PlanetArk CHINA

30th November 2006

BEIJING - China plans to cut back on the small-scale generating units that account for nearly one-third of its coal-burning power capacity, state media reported on Wednesday.

The energy policy-setting National Development and Reform Commission has drawn up a set of proposals for scaling up the size of the country's coal-burning stations, the China Securities Journal said, citing senior officials.

They aim to address pollution, pricing and power management among other issues, and promote clean, efficient and renewable energy -- mostly by copying on a national scale policies already piloted in Guangdong and Henan provinces.

"The high proportion of small generating units is a key problem for the power industry and has become an important factor restricting its healthy development," the paper quoted NDRC energy bureau chief Zhao Xiaoping as saying.

Measures include subsidies for companies that shift to large generating units from smaller ones, and encouraging suitable smaller plants to shift to biomass fuel like straw.

China relies on coal for over 80 percent of its electricity and the jet-black fuel is likely to be the main energy source for the country's booming economy for decades.

But air pollution is becoming an increasing headache for leaders, with acid rain affecting one-third of the country and smog causing hundreds of thousands of early deaths a year and driving foreign workers from cities including Hong Kong.

As a result, Beijing is trying to build cleaner coal plants and encourage the development of renewable and alternative energy. The smaller units targeted for shutdown are often older, less efficient and more polluting than larger stations.


HK Businesses Told To Cough Up For Pollution

Plane Ark

28th November 2006

HONG KONG - A top Hong Kong business leader hit out at companies in the territory on Monday for not taking responsibility for the pollution they are causing in the city.

US investment bank Merrill Lynch issued a scathing report on Hong Kong last week, saying the bad air could negatively impact the property sector and was scaring off skilled global talent. "Companies that are creating the pollution -- they should resolve their own problems," David Eldon, the head of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and a former Asia Chairman of HSBC Holdings PLC, said at a "Business for Clean Air" conference in the city.

"Why should the Hong Kong taxpayer put their own money into helping some company that's been making a lot of money already. This is a business issue, business needs to deal with it," he added. Hong Kong's pollution is largely caused by coal-fired power stations, but huge amounts of smog-inducing particulates are blown across the border from southern China, where thousands of Hong Kong-owned factories now operate.

Many manufacturers have paid lip service to Hong Kong's deteriorating air quality, but have argued the costs of going green would erode their competitiveness and even lead to factory closures.

A voluntary "Clean Air Charter" for businesses launched last year to cut emissions and improve polluter disclosure has so far drawn 500 signatories, a response Eldon described as "pretty bad" with some major industrialists among the absentees.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang, who signed the government up to the "Clean Air Charter" at the conference, acknowledged the scale of the problem.

"Our air quality is not acceptable and we're acting to fix it." But Tsang said the problem should be kept "in perspective" and wasn't as bad as it seemed.

He also debunked perceptions that Hong Kong's economy was losing out to cleaner places like Singapore, saying the city remained an attractive destination for foreign direct investment and companies.


Growth of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accelerating

CANBERRA, Australia, (ENS)

29th November 2006

Global emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have more than doubled since 1990 and the rate of increase is accelerating, according to new information gathered and analyzed by the Australian government research service.

The scientists say this trend, based on data collected over the past 30 years, indicates that recent efforts to cut back on emissions have had little impact on emissions growth. Marine and atmospheric scientist Dr. Mike Raupach co-chairs the Global Carbon Project at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, CSIRO.

He told a meeting of scientists in Tasmania last week that 7.9 billion metric tons of carbon were emitted into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide in 2005 and the rate of increase is quickening.

"From 2000 to 2005, the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions was more than 2.5 percent per year, whereas in the 1990s it was less than one percent per year," he said.

Emitted by burning coal, oil and gas, and by industrial processes, greenhouse gases blanket the Earth, trapping the heat of the Sun close to the planet. The warming effect is responsible for sea level rise, melting glaciers, extreme weather events, drought, heat waves, and changes in the migratory patterns of birds and animals.

Dr. Paul Fraser, also with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, says that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide grew by two parts per million in 2005, the fourth year in a row of above average growth.

"To have four years in a row of above average carbon dioxide growth is unprecedented," says Dr. Fraser, who is program manager for the CSIRO Measurement, Processes & Remote Sensing Program.

Dr. Fraser says the 30 year record of air collected at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s observation station at Tasmania's Cape Grim, showed growth rates of just over one part per million in the early 1980s, but in recent years carbon dioxide has increased at almost twice this rate.

"The trend over recent years suggests the growth rate is accelerating, signifying that fossil fuels are having an impact on greenhouse gas concentrations in a way we haven’t seen in the past," he said.

"Recent emissions seem to be near the high end of the fossil fuel use scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," Raupach said. "On our current path, it will be difficult to rein in carbon emissions enough to stabilize the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at 450 ppm."

While China demonstrates the highest current growth rate in emissions, its emissions per person are still below the global average, Dr. Raupach’s figures show.

China's accumulated contribution since the start of the industrial revolution around the year 1800 is only five percent of the global total.

By comparison, the United States and Europe have each contributed more than 25 percent of accumulated global emissions.

Dr. Raupach says that on average, nearly half of all emissions from fossil fuel use and land use changes remain in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the land and oceans.

"When natural variability is smoothed out, 45 percent of emissions have remained in the atmosphere each year over the past 50 years," he says.

He worries that the land and oceans might take up less carbon dioxide in the future than they have in the past, which he says would increase the rate of climate change caused by emissions.

Raupach and Fraser presented their findings last week during the Annual Science Meeting at Tasmania’s Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station, which is managed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to monitor and study global atmospheric composition in a program led by CSIRO and the Bureau.

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