of Land and Resources on Friday launched a national campaign to
shut down coal mines that cause pollution or those without
The ministry has made this a priority particularly since coal is
the most popular energy source fuelling China's booming
But it can also be harmful to the environment. For example, some
low-quality coal can send excessive amounts of sulphur and floating
particles into the air when burning.
In the past few years, the ministry has closed down hundreds of
small mines in its efforts to regulate the mining industry, the
target of frequent complaints from foreign investors interested in
the country's mining sector.
But this is the first program targeted towards coal mines.
"It is time to fend off the many individual and private coal
mines, whose lower-than-standard operations cause unnecessary waste
of the country's valuable coal resources," said Peng Jianxun,
president of the Datong Coal Mining Group in north China's Shanxi
The coal mining sector has been in the spotlight in China since
last year when electricity shortages hit many Chinese regions, such
as Shanghai and Zhejiang Province.
Official statistics show that 70 percent of the country's
electricity is generated from coal burning.
Zeng Shaojin, director of the Mineral Exploitation Department
under the ministry, explained the ministry's new move is in
preparation for the country's first national coal exploitation
"Such a program is in great need because the huge profits
involved in coal mining have attracted investors with varied
backgrounds, which, in turn, has resulted in intense competition,
an unstable pricing system and uncontrolled mining standards," he
Zeng also confirmed that enhanced protection of coal resources
will facilitate the establishment of 18 planned large-scale coal
mining companies, a plan outlined earlier by the State Development
and Reform Commission.
"We have actually stopped approving new coal mining rights," he
Zeng Shaoqin expects the approval process to resume after the
completion of the new programme, but failed to provide a
However, the move has aroused mixed feelings from the country's
major coal-producing regions, such as Shanxi Province, where three
of the planned 18 large firms will be located.
Wang Xiaoli, an engineer with the Shanxi Provincial Land and
Resources Administration, said the ministry might have overlooked
one important fact - that private coalmines have already been
contributing to two-thirds of the province's annual coal output,
which was 480 million tons last year.
On the one hand, bustling private mines will soon have no
resources to exploit, while on the other hand, large areas of
minerals are designated for State-owned coal mines, which cannot be
developed in the near future because of their present production
"Whether the move is right or not will require three to five
years to see," Wang Xiaoli said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 27, 2004)