Beijing will cut its annual coal production by two thirds in the coming four years to 3 million tons, down from 9 million tons in 2005, the local government said.
As a first step, the city will close down 16 small coal mines in the outer districts of Fangshan and Mentougou, said Zhou Yuqiu, head of the city's workplace safety administration.
The closures will take place before the end of the year.
Zhou said that at the end of 2005, Beijing had 52 small mines that together produced 5.5 million tons a year. "Thirty-one of these mines were closed last year and the rest will be shut down by the end of 2010."
Small coal mines are coal mines that each produces less than 300,000 tons a year.
He said Beijing was working to meet the central government's agenda to more than halve the country's small coal mines from 20,622 in 2005 to 10,000 by 2010.
"It's important for safety reasons as well as for development and the environment to close down small, low-yield mines," he said, adding that their management was often lax and many failed to meet safety and labor protection requirements set by the state.
In Mentougou District in the western suburbs of Beijing, once the city's coal base, only six village-run mines are still open. The local government said 241 mines, or 96 percent of the total, had been closed and the workers had been diverted to farming or manufacturing jobs.
Fangshan District in the southwest of Beijing has vowed to close down all mines by 2010. The government started to provide reskilling training to 15,000 miners last year to prepare them for other jobs.
Excessive mining had left 14 square kilometers of mined-out area in the district, the municipal land and resources bureau said.
The mined-out area is susceptible to landslides, cave-ins and other geological disasters and as mining has cut off the ground water, at least 400 families have had to evacuate.
(Xinhua News Agency May 21, 2007)