Chinese media are reporting that the government will close more than 2,000 coal mines next year, following the closure of 1,100 mines in 2014.
China Daily reports that the shutdown of the mines will be done as much to reduce pollution as it is to reduce the danger to mine workers. At the ongoing bimonthly session for national lawmakers, the director of the State Administration of Work Safety, Yang Dongliang, stated that workplace accidents have decreased by 4.7 percent this year (to 269,000). Fatalities have dropped to 57,000, a decrease of 6.1 percent.
According to Xinhua, several mines lack significant investment in safety or training, and as many as 70 percent of mine laborers (or more) do not receive safety training beyond basic workplace rules.
To reduce workplace accidents, China’s national legislature approved amendments to a law that went into effect December 1 to increase penalties for safety violations. The mine shutdown will mainly affect smaller mines, which are more prone to accidents, and will gradually close any mine with an annual production below 90,000 metric tons.
On the environmental front, this measure supports China’s recent joint-commitment with the U.S. to limit and eventually reduce its carbon emissions. Together, the two countries produce about 45 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. In mid-November, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that China would reach its peak carbon emissions by 2030 or sooner, following nine months of negotiations with U.S. President Obama.
One month before the joint-pledge, the Chinese government announced that it plans to implement a nationwide cap-and-trade program in 2016. This announcement came ahead of a Chinese study that reported as many as 670,000 individuals had suffered premature deaths in 2012 due to smog, pollution caused by the particulate byproducts of burning coal. China’s farmland has also been affected by smog, with over 40 percent of the country’s fertile land degraded by pollution, according to the Xinhua news agency.