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China’s 2020 coal output rises to highest since 2015, undermining climate pledges


BEIJING, Jan 18 (Reuters) – China’s coal output rose last year to its highest since 2015, despite Beijing’s climate change pledge to reduce consumption of the dirty fossil fuel and months of disruption at major coal mining hubs.

The world’s biggest coal miner and consumer produced 3.84 billion tonnes of coal in 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday.

China’s coal output dropped after reaching a peak of 3.97 billion tonnes in 2013, as Beijing axed excessive mining capacity and promoted clean energy consumption. But production is rising amid surging industrial demand and an unofficial restriction on coal imports aimed at shoring up the domestic mining industry.

For December alone, coal output was 351.89 million tonnes, up 3.2% from the same month last year, and up from 347.27 million tonnes in November.

China’s coal mining sector was one of the first industries to resume operations when COVID travel restrictions were gradually relaxed, as Beijing wanted to ensure adequate fuel supplies once the country emerged from the lockdown enforced to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, production was partially disrupted in Inner Mongolia, China’s top coal mining region by output, as the region in March launched an anti-corruption campaign to probe malpractice related to coal resource development over the past 20 years.

Output finally rebounded from multi-month lows in September, as coal import restrictions and surging electricity demand intensified a supply crunch at the onset of the winter heating season.

To stabilise the sky-rocketing coal prices, which hit their highest level since late 2011, Beijing urged miners last month to boost output.

Earlier this month, China’s energy administration approved six coal mining projects, with projected combined annual production of 15.3 million tonnes, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

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