China to close 5,000 coal mines this year

China is planning to close roughly 5,000 small coal mines in 2013 in its drive to improve safety in the mines, the official state news agency Xinhua reports, citing China's State Administration of Work Safety.

China – the globe's number one importer and producer of coal –  has told producers to complete the installation of emergency systems in all mines by the end of June.

Last year China shut down 628 medium-sized coal mines, improved technological processes of 622 mines, merged 388 mines and phased out 97.8 million tons of outdated production facilities.

Coal mining deaths in the country reached around 2,000 in 2011, a substantial reduction around 7,000 per year in the previous decade.

China has more than 12,000 coal mines and domestic production in the country reached 3.66 billion tonnes in 2012, up by 4% compared to the year before.

The clampdown on the country's notoriously unsafe and polluting coal industry has been a boon for exporters.

Chinese customs data out on Friday show imports of coal amounted to 30.5 million tonnes in January, up 56.3% compared to 2012, already a record year.

Last year China imported 234.3 million tonnes of coal, which constituted a huge jump – 28.7% – over the year before.

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