The vast increase, including only major mines, reflected Beijing’s goal of placing 860 million tons of new coal production capacity into operation through 2015 —more than India’s entire annual output. With 1.3 billion inhabitants, China is the world’s most populous nation after India, which is estimated to exceed it in 15 years.
As pollution-curbing efforts mean coal’s share of the country’s energy mix will likely fall, say analysts, the total amount of the cheap and plentiful fossil fuel burned will still rise.
Altogether, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s No. 1 planning authority, approved construction of 15 new large-scale coal mines with 101.3 million tons of annual capacity in 2013, according to Reuters.
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 a little more than 1 billion tons each in Europe and 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 annum (tpa) 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.