Posted by: schmivian | October 27, 2009

old king coal

As you may have heard amongst all this climate change brouhaha, China alone consumes 39% of the world’s coal and 70% of primary domestic energy demand is met by coal, making it both the world’s largest consumer and producer of coal. Despite such high rates of production, the industry is quite fragmented with literally tens of thousands of coal mines operating in China’s poorest provinces. These operations are poorly equipped to deal with safety standards for workers or environmental concerns. News bites about deadly mining accidents appear with frightening regularity. Moreover these mines tend to use ‘suboptimal’ (to put it nicely) extraction methods, wasting resources along the way.

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Par exemple, the roads in northeast Inner Mongolia were literally littered with huge hunks of coal which had fallen off of trucks like this one. In another picture, workers peek out from the bed of a work truck.

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A few years ago in 2006 the NDRC (China’s National Development and Reform Commission) started a move toward consolidating the industry into five or six large conglomerates, which would ostensibly make the industry easier to regulate from a labor and environmental standpoint as well as gain some efficiencies of scale. However this is a senstive issue since it would ultimately mean closing underperforming mines and a single small mining operation, however inefficient and unsafe, in many cases constitutes an entire villages livelihood. Never an easy choice, but lately policy makers are coming around to the third way; diversifying energy sources.

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