On Friday, a coal mine collapse just outside the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi killed 16 miners and injured 11. The accident, the cause of which is still under investigation, is indicative of a larger problem in China. The Associated Press calls China’s coal mines some of the most dangerous in the world, with over 1,000 deaths resulting from more than 600 accidents in 2013. Lax regulations and subpar safety standards have resulted in dangerous conditions for the nation’s miners. In an effort to reduce the number of accidents and injuries each year China plans to shut down 2,000 small scale mines by 2015.
Despite safety concerns, China is by far the largest consumer and producer of coal each year, consuming and producing almost as much as rest of the world combined. Yet, coal consumption in China is predicted to plateau as the country’s robust economic growth slows from double digit growth to roughly 7% per annum. Reduced coal consumption for the developing country would likely have positive benefits for the economy, including reduced smog and pollution.