chapter  1
25 Pages

China’s coal industry: growth and development over the long term

Since the initial establishment of modern coal mining (using at least some steam power) in the 1880s, China’s coal production has grown rapidly and now accounts for around half of the global total. It plays an indispensable role in China’s economy, supplying about 70 per cent of commercial energy. In some areas it has provided incomes and employment for a large section of the population. Overall, its story has been one of success, without which the national economy would have encountered crippling constraints on its growth. This success has, however, come with heavy costs, in terms of its impact on the miners (see Chapters 7 and 8) and on the environment. There must also be a major question over how sustainable its growth will be, both on environmental grounds and possibly because of the eventual exhaustion of resources.