China to shut down 4,300 old coal mines, ban new coal mines

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China recently announced a three-year ban on new coal mine approvals, starting 2016. The country also allocated nearly $4.6 billion to close 4,300 small and inefficient coal mines, remove outdated production capacity of 700 million metric tons and relocate 1 million workers in the next three years.

China to shut down 4,300 old coal mines, ban new coal mines
  • In December 2015, China announced a three-year ban on new coal mine approvals, starting 2016.
  • In the next three years, China will also aim to close 4,300 small and inefficient coal mines, remove outdated production capacity of 700 million metric tons and relocate 1 million workers, local media reported Thursday.
  • But experts say that the ban on new coal mines for the next three years will not make much of a dent because the existing mines have surplus capacity.

In December 2015, China announced a three-year ban on new coal mine approvals, starting 2016.

China — the world’s biggest coal producer and consumer — is also planning on a number of other drastic measures to cut down coal from the country’s energy mix. In the next three years, China will aim to close 4,300 small and inefficient coal mines, remove outdated production capacity of 700 million metric tons and relocate 1 million workers, local media reported Thursday. The Chinese government plans to allocate 30 billion yuan ($4.56 billion) to achieve this, according to reports.

By taking these steps, China hopes to curb the country’s worsening levels of pollution, which is estimated to kill 4,000 people in China a day. China is also trying to broaden its energy sources. According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, the country aims to reduce energy consumption from coal to below 62.6 percent in 2016 from 64.4 percent in 2015.

The Chinese government also plans to add 20 million kilowatts of installed wind power and over 15 million kilowatts of installed photovoltaic power in the next five years, the report said. During this period, the government also intends to start a number of nuclear power projects.

Green groups, such as Greenpeace, have called China’s decisions a “huge win for the climate”.

In winter North China burns more coal for heating, which increases air pollution. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace.
In winter North China burns more coal for heating, which increases air pollution. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace.

But banning new mines for the next three years may not make much difference, experts say.

China has previously been accused of underreporting its carbon emissions. Experts also say that the ban on new coal mines for the next three years may be inconsequential because the existing mines already have surplus capacity.

China’s coal consumption peaked in 2013 at around 4.2 billion metric tons, and has been declining ever since, according to the China Coal Association. The ban on new approvals could have little impact, experts say, because the current set of 11,000 mines have a total capacity of 5.7 billion metric tons, which is still a huge production capacity.

Still, China’s steps are a big deal, “symbolically and politically,” Lauri Myllyvirta of Greenpeace writes.

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