China has announced a creation of a high-level body to integrate its energy management supervision and policies, functions that are currently dispersed among many government agencies.
The following are basic information about one of its major energy resources -- coal, which accounts for about 70 percent of China's energy use.
Coal reserves stood at 1.03 trillion tons as of 2006, which was the world's third-largest amount, and the country's coal deposits are concentrated in the northern and northwestern parts of the country. Shanxi, the largest producing province, contributes a quarter of the nation's total output.
China, the world's leading coal producer and consumer, saw its raw coal output reach 2.52 billion tons in 2007 and consumption that year stood at 2.58 billion tons, according to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics.
Coal is largely used to generate electricity, produce building materials like cement and glass and produce steel. This latter demand is met by coking coal, which constitutes 27 percent of China's total coal reserves.
China mainly imports coal from southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam and Indonesia, which supplied 76 percent of its total imports in 2007. It also exports coal, mostly to Asian countries: the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan took up about 65 percent of its total exports.
But exports have been falling as China takes steps to keep coal home to fuel its fast-growing economy. The government introduced a series of tax changes starting in 2004 to curb coal exports.
Net exports slid to 25 million tons in 2006 from 45.6 million tons in 2005. The figure plunged to 2.15 million tons in 2007, a mere fraction of the 82.9 million tons exported as recently as 2003.
China reported a 20.2 percent decrease in the number of fatalities caused by coal mine accidents in 2007.
The country's safety watchdog said that 3,786 people were killed in coal mine accidents last year.
2007 was the second consecutive year for the country to report a 20-percent fall in coal mine accident fatalities, Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), said at a national work safety meeting in Beijing.
China has been shutting down coal mines with small capacities and pouring more investment into safety facilities to improve the colliery safety record.
Small coal mines, those with annual output capacity of less than 300,000 tons, accounted for one third of all the coal mines in China, but caused two thirds of the total deaths every year, according to sources with the SAWS.
The country has closed 11,155 small coal mines since it began to shut down small collieries in the second half of 2005.
In recent years, mining safety has been a top concern of the government, which imposed stricter supervision and tougher penalties to restrain illegal operations. Many small mines were closed or merged with larger mines.
More than 2,700 coal mines had to halt production due to power failures caused by heavy snow this winter in the central and southern provinces of Hunan, Jiangxi, Yunnan and Guizhou, according to SAWS head Li Yizhong. He reported the data at the ongoing annual respective session of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
SAWS has decided to help more than 13,200 coal mines, mostly small ones, to resume production soon, as maintenance work was completed after the Spring Festival holiday period.
Shenhua Group, China's largest coal producer, produced 235 million tons of coal in 2007, up 15.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
The Beijing-registered company, both listed in Hong Kong and Shanghai, aims to produce more than 250 million tons of coal in 2008.