Mining & Environment: Extreme pollution forces China to shut down hundreds of coal, steel operations

Thick smog blanket in China’s Liaoning Province. (Photo taken in Nov. 2015 by @OrRavid.)

China is stepping up its war on pollution by forcing hundreds of coal and steel companies to close or slash output in light of their transgressions to environmental and safety regulations, reports.

The country’s state planner said that after inspecting more than 4,600 coal mines it decided to revoke safety certificates for 28 of them and shut another 286 operations for not complying with environmental and safety regulations.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also ordered two steel firms to close permanently, 29 companies to suspend output and another 23 to reduce production, it said in the statement.

After inspecting more than 4,600 coal mines, China’s state planner revoked safety certificates for 28 of them and shut another 286 operations for not complying with environmental and safety regulations.

China will also set up a no-coal zone in cities around Beijing in 2017 to try reducing the capital’s hazardous smog levels. As an additional measure, the government will ban factories and households in 18 districts and towns of the Hebei province from both burning coal and building new power generators powered by petroleum coke, Xinhua News Agency reported.

A study by Chinese and American researchers published last month blamed burning coal as the cause of premature death for about 366,000 people in 2013.

According to the paper, produced by Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s top research universities, in collaboration with Boston-based Health Effects Institute, coal is responsible for 40% of the deadly fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5 in China’s air.

The study attributed 155,000 deaths in 2013 related to ambient PM 2.5 to industrial coal burning, and 86,500 deaths to coal burning at power plants.

But coal consumption in China has decreased since then. In December, Beijing said it would not approve any new coal mines over the next three years and that it would shut more than 1,000 coal mines in 2016, taking out 60 million metric tons of unneeded capacity. A month later, the world’s largest coal consumer announced it would invest $4.6 billion to close another 4,300 coal mines.

Most recently, Beijing limited coal mines operating days to 276 or fewer a year, triggering a current rally in coking coal prices.

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