Inner Mongolia and coal

From Global Energy Monitor

Coal plants in Inner Mongolia

For a full list and map of all coal plants in Inner Mongolia Province, China, go to CoalSwarm's Global Coal Plant Tracker and choose Region East Asia, Map China - Inner Mongolia.


Inner Mongolia has 658 billion tons of proven coal reserves. The region is about 1,183,000 square km, roughly 12 percent of China’s total land area [1]. It has a population of 24,706,321 as of 2010 census, sharing 1.84% of Mainland China's population, Inner Mongolia is the 23rd populous province-level division.[2]. Inner Mongolia's coal production had a thirteen-fold growth from 2000 to 2011 [3]. The province became China's top producer of coal two years ago, and is estimated to provide one quarter of the country's entire domestic supply by 2015 [4]. Recent coal discoveries have transformed Inner Mongolia into a wealthy coal-dominated region, despite the arid conditions and remote location. The increase in economic wealth has caused a population boom that has created a water scarcity issue in an already dry region [5].

Expansion plans

China's Yanzhou buys Inner Mongolia Haosheng Coal Mining

In September 2010, China's fourth-largest coal miner Yanzhou Coal said it will pay $682 million in an effort to acquire 51% of Inner Mongolia Haosheng Coal Mining. Yanzhou said it is looking to bolster reserves as Chinese coal consumption continues to surge. Yanzhou will pay $682.1 million to two sellers for a 35.5 percent stake in the developer of the Shilawusu coal field, and seek to buy a further 15.5 percent through an open bidding process, according to Bloomberg News. Yanzhou's last major acquisition was the $3 billion purchase of Australia's Felix Resources.[6]

China and UK fund coal gasification plant in Inner Mongolia

In Jun 2011, China Energy Conservation & Environmental Protection Group, a state-owned project developer, said it will build a $1.5 billion “clean coal” plant in Inner Mongolia with U.K.-based Seamwell International. The plant on the YiHe Coal Field will produce power by the end of 2014 or 2015, and will generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity for about 25 years.

The plant will harvest its energy from gasified coal deep underground, the first commercial plant of its size, according to a statement from Seamwell. The project will drill to the seam of coal that is then ignited and injected with air, oxygen or steam to create synthetic gas. That will be pumped out and scrubbed before being used by a integrated gasification combined cycle power plant at the surface. There are 280 billion tons of coal resources in that region of Inner Mongolia, according to Seamwell.

The commercial plant will be fitted with carbon capture technology. The companies will first undertake a demonstration project at YiHe Field that Seamwell will finance after seeking funds globally. Once approvals are secured from the Chinese government, the companies said they will set up a joint venture in which Seamwell will own 49 percent and China’s energy conservation and protection group CECEP the rest.[7]

Environmental impacts

Air and water pollution highlighted in Northwest China

Click here for photos of the environmental effects of coal mining in China.

Increasing Chinese air and water pollution, declining water levels in rivers and aquifers have led to protests against coal plants. At least some 10 billion cubic meters of water—equivalent to about one-sixth of the annual total water volume of the Yellow River—will be consumed by 16 new coal power bases in China in 2015, triggering severe water crises in the country’s arid Northwest, a new Greenpeace report claims. [8]

The World Bank estimates that China has 16 of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities. The burning of coal is the main source of air pollution. [9]

An estimated 40 percent of China's rivers and 90 percent of groundwater is polluted. [10]

According to the American Geophysical Union, some of the highest rates of groundwater depletion are in India and China. [11] Chinese and Indian Rivers are drying. Himalayan glaciers are among the fastest retreating glaciers globally due to the effects of global warming, and this will eventually result in water shortages for hundreds of millions of people who rely on glacier-dependent rivers in China, India and Nepal. [12]

Major Chinese pollution problems, much of it caused by coal, has sparked unrest. The number of environmental protests in China has increased by an average of 29 percent every year since 1996, while in 2011 the number of major environmental incidents rose 120 percent. Environmental pollution is one of three main factors driving popular protests in China. [13]

The 2012 Greenpeace report, "Thirsty Coal: A Water Crisis Exacerbated by China's New Mega Coal Power Bases," estimates that by 2015, the water demand of coal power bases in Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, and Ningxia will either severely challenge or exceed the respective areas’ total industrial water supply capacity.

Citizen action, protests, and repression

May 2011: Protests against coal mining operations break out in Inner Mongolia

In May, 2011 China's Inner Mongolia began an overhaul of its mining sector, China's state media Xinhua reported, in an effort to quell ethnic Mongol anger over charges of resource exploitation and environmental damage. At the time the northern Chinese region launched a push to bring order to the rapid exploitation of its rich coal deposits. This accelerated mining activity sparked a wave of Mongol protests against the coal mining activities.[14]

The one-month campaign by China's Inner Mongolia mining sector was aimed at "ensuring the healthy, orderly, harmonious and green development of the coal industry" the region's coal mining bureau stated.[14]

The vast region saw significant demonstrations over a period of a week, sparked by the May 10, 2011 killing of an ethnic Mongol protester who had tried to block a coal truck driven by a member of China's dominant Han ethnicity. The protester named Mergen was a Mongolian herder. He was with about 20 other protesters at the time of his death as he tried to stop the coal truck driving across pastureland. Mergen was run over and dragged nearly 150m (490ft) before he died, officials said.[15]

Five days later, a forklift operator named Yan Wenlong was killed at a coal mine near Xilinhot after he and other locals clashed with company employees in a protest over pollution from the mine.[16]

The incidents led to protests across the region, which separates the rest of China from the Republic of Mongolia to the north and has traditionally been home to nomadic Mongol herders.[14]

It was reported that China moved swiftly to tighten security, including sealing off some restive college campuses, and residents in protest-hit areas have reported a tense calm had returned. However, hundreds of Mongols marched later in the regional capital of Hohhot on May 31, 2011, the US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center stated.[14]

Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center said a protest march also took place on May 30, 2011. AFP reported that the coal industry crackdown would include stepped-up checks on all existing and future projects and require all proposed mines to first submit environmental impact statements, the Inner Mongolia coal bureau's notice was quoted as saying.[14]

June 2011: Death sentence for Chinese coal truck driver in protester's death

On June 3, 2011 Chinese official stated the government and local agencies are addressing pollution concerns that sparked clashes leading to a wave of ethnic protests across Inner Mongolia. Vice Environment Minister Li Ganjie said that local governments and environmental protection agencies will hold companies accountable that break laws and regulations.[17]

On June 8, 2011 it was reported that a court in China sentenced a coalmine worker to death for killing a Mongolian herder named Mergen was killed while attempting to block a coal truck. The herder's death sparked protests across the northern Chinese region.

The co-driver of the coal truck was given a life term for his role in the killing of Mergen, which led to a series of protests in towns and cities across Inner Mongolia.[15]

It was reported that on August 25, 2011 that the truck driver who killed Mergen was executed by the Chinese government.[18]

June 2011: Death sentence for coal worker

On June 21, 2011, a court in China's vast northern region of Inner Mongolia sentenced to death a coal mine worker, Sun Shuning, for killing a resident, Yan Wenlong, who had complained about pollution from a coal mine. Sun killed Wen with his forklift.[19]

Articles and resources


  1. "Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region-Background" CBI China, April, 2010.
  2. 'China NBS: 6th National Population Census - DATA
  3. "China's Energy Markets: Anhui, Chongqing, Henan, Inner Mongolia, and Guizhou Provinces" US Environmental Protection Agency, December, 2012.
  4. "Where Coal is King in China," Scientific American, November 4, 2011.
  5. "Inner Mongolia: Coal Heaven, Water Hell" The Center For Climate and Security, June 17, 2013.
  6. "Yanzhou Coal Will Pay $682M For Stake In Mongolian Firm" Benzinga, September 6, 2010.
  7. Sally Bakewell, "China Energy, Seamwell to Build $1.5 Billion ‘Clean Coal’ Plant" Bloomberg, June 26, 2011.
  8. “China Accelerates Water Crisis With the Building of 16 Coal-Fired Power Plants,” Ecowatch, August 14, 2012.
  9. “China to Impose Limits on Six Industries to Tackle Air Pollution,” Bloomberg News, February 20, 2013.
  10. “Chinese Environmental Official Offered Reward To Swim In Polluted Ruian River,” Huffington Post, February 19, 2013
  11. “Groundwater depletion rate accelerating worldwide,” September 23, 2010.
  12. “Water crisis looms as Himalayan glaciers retreat – says WWF,” WWF China, 2005
  13. “China’s New 'Middle Class' Environmental Protests,” January 2, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 "Restive China region orders mining crackdown" Dan Martin, AFP, June 1, 2011.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Second death sentence after Inner Mongolia unrest" BBC News, June 21, 2011.
  16. David Pierson, "Coal mining in China's Inner Mongolia fuels tensions" Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2011.
  17. "China says it’s addressing pollution in Inner Mongolia after clashes over coal mining" Associated Press, June 3, 2011.
  18. "China executes killer of Mongolian herder" BBC News, accessed August 25, 2011.
  19. "Chinese man gets death in pollution protest case" Reuters, June 21, 2011.

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