2.3 Million New Jobs Required after Chinese coal mine cutback

Jin Hua Gong Mine, Datong, Shanxi, China. Photo: Peter Van den Bossche

Managing the decline of coal dependent cities will be a tricky balancing act for the Chinese government.

Between 2008 and 2010 the government identified 69 “resource depleted cities” of which 19 – more than one quarter – are in the northeastern provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang.

Once the heart of China’s heavy industry, the country’s northeast is in trouble; its oil fields and steel mills are struggling, and its coal mining sector is in chronic decline.This article originated as part of a Special Report on economic decline and rejuvenation in China’s former coal belt.

Most of these 19 cities primarily mined coal, but with the sector in decline, an urgent search is on for new economic opportunities.

Many of the problems faced by the northeast reflect the broader need for China to shift to more sustainable economic development as environmental pressures force it to restore the environment and reduce carbon emissions in the context of a drive to promote renewable energy.

It is getting harder to mine coal in China’s northeast. Most seams have been mined too extensively, with some pits descending over a kilometre down into the earth.

At those depths, the temperature and humidity become problematic for large machinery so more labour intensive methods are used. But higher labour costs mean that the cost of coal mining has rocketed to unsustainable levels.