TAIYUAN -- North China's Shanxi province, a major coal production base, has eliminated all of its small collieries, each of which had an annual production capacity of no more than 300,000 tons, according to a senior coal industry regulator.
The province shut down 1,500 such mines over the past three years, said Wang Shouzhen, head of the local coal mine bureau.
"We've locked shafts, covered them with earth, and trees and grass are being planted on the sites," said Liu Lichen, vice general manager of Xinfei Group in Liulin county. Now the company is waiting for land resource authorities to check them.
Xinfei, a private business, has closed 10 small collieries while retaining four larger mines that are able to produce 4.2 million metric tons of coal a year.
Small collieries have played a major part in China's coal production, which has suffered a waste of resources and numerous accidents. Rough statistics show that around 90 percent of coal-mine accidents happened in small collieries.
Wang said that a small mine consumed six metric tons of resources for mining one metric ton of coal, and that its death ratio against 1 million metric tons of output was 7.25 times that for a larger mine.
It is imperative for the coal industry to restructure itself, so as to upgrade production, according to Wu Yin, deputy head of the National Energy Administration.
Shanxi started the process in 2008.
As a result, the number of coal mines in the province has been slashed from 2,600 to 1,053, and the number of colliery operators reduced from 2,200-plus to 130, according to Miao Huanli, head of the planning section for the provincial coal mine bureau.
Wide use of modern mining and information technologies has helped improve security of coal production in the province, says Du Jianrong, head of Shanxi's administration of coal-mine work safety supervision.
As industrial restructuring has progressed, Shanxi now has four coal mines each with an annual production capacity of more than 100 million metric tons, three with an annual capacity of no less than 50 million metric tons, and 11 with a capacity of no less than 10 million metric tons, according to Wang Shouzhen.
The death ratio for one million metric tons of coal output averaged 0.187 last year in Shanxi, down 80 percent from 0.905 in 2005.
Last year, Shanxi produced a record 741 million metric tons of coal, of which 510 million metric tons were transported to other parts of the country.
Other leading coal-mining bases in China have also begun restructuring their coal industry.
Inner Mongolia autonomous region in north China will limit number of coal enterprises to 80-100 in the coming three years, while Shandong Province plans to slash the number to 60 from 113.
According to official statistics, 1,403 coal-mine accidents were recorded in China last year, down 13.2 percent from the previous year. They claimed 2,433 lives, down 7.5 percent year-on-year.