Chinese coal production of 3.66 billion tons by Q4 2012 already represents nearly 50% of the world’s total, according to government data. The figure dwarfs production rates of around 1 billion tons for the United States.

Much of the new capacity is in regions like Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi, reflecting plans to shutter small mines in marginal locations like Beijing, while compiling output into vast “coal industry bases” delivering thermal power to markets via the grid. The new projects cost $8.9 billion. In 2012, Beijing approved just four coal projects with 16.6-million-ton-per-year capacity and a total investment of $1.2 billion. Despite output expansion, Beijing has closed more than 300 million tons of old capacity since 2003 for safety and environmental reasons.