Shanxi aims for transformation

Updated: 2013-03-08 07:06

By Li Jiabao and Sun Ruisheng (China Daily)

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Shanxi aims for transformation

Province to diversify coal industry amid concerns over environment

Shanxi province, China's energy base, aims to transform its traditional coal industry amid mounting pressure from environmental protection and ecological restoration, top officials said on Thursday.

"We have no other choice than transformation. Coal is still our advantage in resources, but the industry should be diversified, and emerging sectors should also be boosted," Yuan Chunqing, the province's Party chief, said during a panel discussion at the 12th National People's Congress on Thursday.

Coal mining has long been hurting the ecology in Shanxi, a province in North China with a population of 35.93 million that is mostly covered by loess - a fine-grained loam - and which receives little rainfall, according to Yuan.

Although the death toll from coal mining accidents in the province has declined from 308 in 2008 to 83 in 2012, there is still a high risk of accidents, said Yang Dongliang, head of the State Administration of Work Safety under the State Council.

"On one hand, we should mine coal in a green and safe way to reduce the impact on the ecological system and the death toll," Yuan said during the panel discussion.

"On the other hand, we need to improve the efficiency of coal use and boost related industries such as equipment manufacturing, environmental protection and logistics," he said.

Coal production in Shanxi stood at 910 million metric tons in 2012, and more than 580 million tons were sold to other places. The province's total coal output stands at 14 billion tons since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, with about 10 billion tons sold outside the province to support the country's economic growth.

More than 1 million people work in the coal mining industry in Shanxi, with about 400,000 under ground at the same time, Yang said.

Zhang Youxi, chairman of the Datong Coal Mine Group and an NPC deputy, said: "Shanxi should get rid of the traditional model and build gigantic coal mines with modern equipment. What's more important, administrative approval should be simplified, as it takes five years now to get 256 stamps from 33 governmental departments before building a coal mine."

Zhang said the efficiency of coal use should also be improved, and it is a core strategy for the province to sell power rather than coal, which will reduce pollution. In addition, the use of associated resources in coal mining will provide added value, but government support should be introduced as this business is still at the initial stage.

Wang Anpang, Party chief of Shuozhou city in the province and an NPC deputy, said the central government should not only introduce supportive policies for coal-electricity integration programs in the province but also help to restore the province's environment.

Jin Daoming, deputy Party chief of Shanxi, said the government should also give more support to emerging sectors such as tourism and services industries.

The State Council approved Shanxi as a national pilot zone for comprehensive economic transformation - an opportunity to build a "new Shanxi", according to provincial governor Li Xiaopeng.

"We are now drafting the detailed plan and annual schedule for developing the zone," Li said.

He added that the government will make further efforts to coordinate economic expansion and ecological restoration to build a "beautiful Shanxi".

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(China Daily 03/08/2013 page8)