China’s alarming rates of air pollution will see it shut down around 2000 small coal mines this year, its National Energy Administration said on Friday.
The smaller mines, which have a combined capacity of more than 117 million tonnes, will be phased out beginning with old and depleted mines in the east, reports Reuters.
The government will also consolidate output in various bases spread through remote parts of the country.
This forms part of a concerted effort by the Chinese government to reduce its dangerously high urban smog levels. A study released in December last year reported that pollution from coal plants could have contributed to a quarter of a million premature deaths in 2011. Another report, from China’s former health minister, pegged it at half a million.
According to the air quality monitor at the US Consulate in Shanghai, a high concentration of certain particulate matter is associated with a number of significant health effects. These effects are increased in sensitive groups like people with heart and lung diseases, children and older adults.
Coal has been identified as the major contributor to the country’s air pollution problems and as the world’s largest coal producer, China has had to take serious steps to reduce the impact on its populace.
This is in addition to the country’s goals to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels (China is responsible for almost 50% of the world’s coal consumption). China has consequently upped the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to almost 10%, while coal’s share fell to 65.7% in 2012, and is expected to fall below 65% this year.
Despite these cuts, China still has an additional 570 coal plants commissioned or under construction, and the country’s energy demands show no signs of slowing.