Mining Restrictions Eased to Prevent Winter Coal Price Surge
(Beijing) — China's top economic planner has temporarily eased an earlier rule restricting coal miners to work for only 276 days a year to rein in coal prices this winter.
Production of the fossil fuel has dropped amid government efforts to trim overcapacity and curb pollution, pushing up prices in recent months.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said on Thursday that coal mines that "meet work safety standards" can resume working 330 days a year to increase output before the heating season ends in March.
The decision is a reversal of a February policy that reduced the number of working days for the country's coal miners to 276 days a year as part of the efforts to tackle a chronic supply glut and air pollution. As a result, production of raw coal dropped 4.5% in March, compared to the same period last year, and it continued to decline by more than 10% each month between April and October.
The decline in production has sent prices of the fossil fuel soaring. The Bohai-Rim Steam-Coal Price Index, which measures domestic thermal coal prices in the country, has risen 63% from the beginning of the year to 604 yuan ($88) per ton on Wednesday.
The government has scrambled to boost supply as winter looms and fuel demand peaks. The latest move is a further relaxation of a September decision where the NDRC said mines that used advance technology to curb emissions, had high efficiency levels and met safety standards could temporarily push up production from 276 days to 330 days a year.
Two top Chinese coal producers, Shenhua Group Corp. and China National Coal Group Corp., also signed a one-year deal to supply thermal coal to two of the country's largest power generators for 535 yuan per ton earlier this month to keep prices stable.
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