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Coal mines lift their production
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China, the world's second-biggest energy consumer, has ordered state-owned coal mines to expand production as factories reopen after the Lunar New Year holidays and increase demand for electricity.

"As the industrial and agricultural sectors resumed production after the holidays, China is facing further potential thermal coal shortages," the Beijing-based National Development and Reform Commission said yesterday. China shut seven percent of its coal-fired power plants last month as the heaviest snowfalls in half a century hampered transportation.

The country burns coal for 78 percent of its electricity. Asian benchmark prices for the fuel at Australia's Newcastle port rose to a record for a fourth week to US$139.16 a ton last week, according to Bloomberg News, as floods cut deliveries in Queensland.

Up to 170 Chinese cities have had blackouts as snowstorms paralyzed power grids and delayed coal delivery, the commission said yesterday, without giving details. Electricity demand rebounded "rapidly" after factories resumed production following the holidays, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

Guangzhou has ordered high energy-consuming users including factories to halt production as a worsening power shortage threatens residential supplies, Xinhua said.

(Shanghai Daily February 21, 2008)

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