SHENYANG - The landlocked coal-rich Inner Mongolia autonomous region in north China will soon have an open access to ship its coal from a port in its neighboring province to fuel-thirsty customers in eastern and southern regions.
A port terminal to be built in Huludao, Liaoning province, will support an annual throughput of 50 million tons of coal when the first phase of the project becomes operational by 2012, Zhao Rongqing, the chief of port affairs in Huludao, said on Wednesday.
The annual throughput would be eventually expanded to 230 million tons, Zhao said.
He said a 300-km railway will be built to link the port directly with Xilingol, a major coal production base in Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
Inner Mongolia is China's coal heartland. Its verified coal deposit of 732 billion tons is much greater than the 250 billion tons in Shanxi province, which is currently China's biggest producer of the fossil fuel.
The region's coal output has been quickly catching up, reaching 600 million tons last year, compared with 615 million tons in Shanxi.
However, transport bottlenecks have been hindering Inner Mongolia from sending the resource to end users in coastal and southern regions, where coal-fired electricity plants suffer severe fuel shortages every year, especially in winter and summer.
"The landlocked northern region has 60 percent of the country's coal reserve. However, southern and coastal regions consume 70 percent of the country's electricity. Current road and railway transport for coal cannot meet the demand," said Zhao Yonghua, deputy mayor of Ulanqab, Inner Mongolia.
He said the traffic problem in the region was so serious that Inner Mongolia in January introduced an odd-even license plate policy for cargo trucks to ease traffic congestion .
Shipping the coal by sea is expected to get some of trucks off the road.
"I was too excited to sleep when I heard the port plan," said Wang De, deputy head of the economic commission in Xilingol.
He said the prefecture with a verified coal reserve of 150 billion tons of coal would see its output of coal reach 100 million tons this year and 350 million tons by 2015.
The port will offer a "fast lane" to distribute the resource, Wang said.