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Coal Shortages Strain Shanxi Environment

Reuters in Beijing – Updated on Jul 29, 2008

The mainland’s worsening coal shortages have exerted unprecedented pressure on Shanxi, the country’s top coal-producing region, to push output beyond approved levels and worsening environmental strains, official media reported on Tuesday.

Demand from users who normally get their coal from Shanxi is expected to exceed its output by more than 200 million tonnes this year, despite the region’s all-out efforts to boost production, the official China Securities Journal said.

Shanxi produced 330 million tonnes of coal in the first half of this year, 14 per cent higher than a year earlier, and coal sales to other Chinese provinces increased 10 per cent to 278 million tonnes during the same period, the report said.

Many of Shanxi’s coal miners, especially state-owned ones, were operating beyond their certified production capacity, a major threat to mine safety, Wang Shouzhen, chief of the Shanxi Coal Bureau, was quoted as saying.

Overproduction was a further blow to Shanxi’s fragile environment, leading to more dust pollution, faster ground subsidence, increasing disruption of land and of underground water flows, the report said.

Although Shanxi needs to slow its mining to achieve sustainable development, energy demands made that difficult, the report added, citing Mr Wang.

Coal shortages have forced many regions to reduce power generation, leading more than a dozen Chinese provinces to ration power as the peak demand season approaches.

Coal-fired power plants burn about half of China’s coal output to produce 80 per cent of the country’s electricity.

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