The NEA explained that low coal prices made imports more affordable for power plants serving China’s south coastal cities. Moreover China’s economy recovers and so does coal demand.

Meanwhile China’s State Administration of Coal Mine Safety reported 1,616 coal mine accidents in 2009 down by 338 compared to the year before. According to Xinhua Online, accidents caused 2,631 deaths also down by 584 year-on-year. Most coal-producing provinces saw a year-on-year decrease in coal mine accidents, but the small coal mines, which produce 35% of the country’s coal, were responsible for 70% of the fatalities. A total of 1,088 small coal mines were closed last year. The country also cut 50 million mt of outdated annual coal production capacity in 2009.

The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has replaced neighboring Shanxi Province as China’s largest coal producer. According to Xinhua Online, regional administration of coal mine safety said in a statement that in 2009, Inner Mongolia reported coal output of 637 million mt, 22 million mt more than Shanxi, China’s top coal producing region for 30 years. Last year Inner Mongolia coal production increased 37% year-on-year and it was expected to hit 730 million mt in 2010. Shanxi saw a decline of 4.7% of its coal output year-on-year in 2009. The statement said since 2004, Inner Mongolia had cut the number of its collieries from 2009 to 501 while expanding their annual capacity from 140,000 mt to 1 million mt.