Beijing hopes to close old and depleting eastern mines, while consolidating output in “coal energy bases” across vast, remote areas including the northwestern regions of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.

The National Energy Administration has also directed local governments to encourage mergers and technological upgrades for a highly fragmented sector with a huge history of poor safety standards. Municipal officials, they added, will disclose details of pit closures publicly to improve enforcement.

Local governments, meanwhile, have been ordered to gradually shut all coal mines with annual production of less than 90,000 tons; these include mines operating illicitly without safety requirement compliance.

China has announced intentions to reduce coal in its energy mix to 65% in 2014, its last five-year plan for the sector still permits construction of an additional 850 million tons of new coal capacity by 2015; with 1.3 billon inhabitants, China still consumes more coal than the rest of the world combined.

Nonetheless, Beijing hopes to cap total production at 4.1 billion tons by 2015, up from 2013’s 3.7 billion tons. Some experts, however, foresee the true figure as far higher, given the number of new mine project approvals.