In a move that is sure to be hailed by environmental agencies worldwide as a very small step in the right direction, China’s energy administration has announced that it plans to close 1,725 small-scale coal mines all over the country by the end of this year. This is part of China’s plan to close older and less productive coal mines; a large majority of which are in East China, and instead relocate the majority of the nation’s coal production to mines in the northwest and more remote regions. It should noted that these mines also produce low-quality coal.
Local governments in China have been ordered to shut down mines that “produce less than 90,000” metric tons of coal as well as any illegally operating mines and those that don’t “comply with state security requirements”. In an effort to improve enforcement and accountability for a nation that is as large as China, the local governments will also be required to publicly release the details of all closed coal mines. This is said to be in response to how when earlier last year, cities and regions were asked to reduce pollution for their respective regions, only 3 out of 74 cities had actually complied and met their pollution reduction targets for 2013.
For the past couple of years, many major cities of China have reported long bouts of smog and air pollution that is way above the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization. This is, of course, damaging the health and the safety of its 1.35 billion population. China still relies on coal for about 70 to 80 percent of its electricity and accounts for nearly half of the world’s coal consumption. Together with rising superpower India, China has caused Asia to surpass North America to be the world’s leading territory in carbon dioxide emissions.
The decision to close small-scale and low-quality mines is an effort to get China’s reliance on coal down by 65 percent. China has also been actively encouraging business mergers and technological upgrades to help combat the nation’s history of poor safety standards. In light of their recent pushes for solar and electric energy, one hopes for a brighter and cleaner future for China.