China set to close 1,000 coal mines in 2016

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China will close more than 1,000 coal mines this year to confront the country’s surplus of the fuel, officials said Monday. 

The country’s National Energy Administration announced that it will close the mines as a way to keep up to 500 million metric tones of coal in the ground and off the market within the next three to five years, Reuters reported Monday. 

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China is the world’s top coal consumer, but it has so many mines producing the fuel that a surplus there has driven down coal prices by up to a third. China mined 3.7 million metric tons of coal last year and has a surplus supply of 2 million metric tons annually. 

Officials told a Chinese news agency last year that will likely use 3.96 billion metric tons of coal in 2016. Coal’s share of the country’s energy needs will likely fall from 64.4 percent to 62.6 percent under that scenario, officials said.

The China National Coal Association has said the country could eventually shutter 5,600 of its 10,760 coal mines by instituting a policy banning those with an output capacity of less than 90,000 metric tons of coal a year, Reuters reported. 

As another way to control its coal supply, the country said last year it will put a three-year moratorium on approving new coal projects starting in March.