Feeding China's Appetite for Coal  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Age has an article on a Chinese drive to reduce fatalities in the coal mining industry - which has greatly benefited Australian coal exporters - Feed the Beast.

THE people of Shanxi, a province famous in China for its deadly coalmines and toxic air, have had enough. "We don't want blood-tainted GDP," says Fu Sufen, a mother and taxi driver in the provincial capital, Taiyuan.

One statistic that China failed to mention in this week's 60th anniversary celebrations is that more than 250,000 workers have died in coalmines since 1949. Shanxi has produced far more coal, and coalmining deaths, than anywhere else.

The worst of the disasters, when 682 people died in an accident in 1960, was classified as a state secret and was not disclosed until 1998. The regular gas explosions, mine-shaft floods, cave-ins and generally Dickensian work conditions have undermined Shanxi's standing on the national stage, along with China's claims to being a civilised nation. ...

Shanxi coal production fell by 150 million tonnes in the first half compared with the previous year, according to Huadian Power International Corp president Chen Jianhua. This reduction was almost as large as Australia's entire coal output for the period. Shanxi's safety-induced coal shortfall created an opening for Australian coal exporters for the first time in China's history.

In the seven months to July, Australia's thermal coal (for power generation) exports to China reached 8.8 million tonnes from a virtual standing start - up 986 per cent from the previous year. Coking coal, the harder and more valuable variety used to make steel, reached 12.2 million tonnes in the first half, up 1403 per cent.

The unexpected opening in China has offset a collapse in Australia's biggest coal export markets in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

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