China and India face biggest cuts by 2050 — Radio Free Asia

In the hot, bustling city of Siliguri in northeastern India, Jitendar Kumar spends his days dismantling and transporting ash blocks in a coal depot.

The 30-year-old has worked half his life with coal, a legacy he inherited from his father who spent 40 years in Ranijong, India’s first coalfield dating back to 1774, in West Bengal.

“I started there too but later chose the city instead of the mines,” Kumar said. “Like many people here, charcoal puts food on our table. I don’t know what it does.”

India, the world’s second-largest coal producer, has about 337,400 miners in its active mines. Labor activists estimate that this number could quadruple when including informal workers in this sector.

State-owned Coal India, the world’s largest government-owned coal producer, faces the largest possible layoffs of 73,800 direct workers by 2050, a new report said this week.

Globally, nearly 1 million coal mining jobs, or more than a third of the coal mining workforce, could disappear by 2050, with the vast majority of these losses expected in Asia, especially in China and India, according to the Center for Global Energy Research. Based in the United States. Observer (GEM) said.

This means, on average, 100 coal miners a day could face job cuts as the coal industry declines due to a market shift towards cheaper renewables and planned mine closures.

This chart shows where coal mining layoffs are likely by 2050. Image source: Global Energy Monitor
This chart shows where coal mining layoffs are likely by 2050. Image source: Global Energy Monitor

The movement said that nearly half a million workers could lose their jobs before 2035. The think tank added that the decline in employment will likely occur regardless of specific coal phase-out strategies or climate action because such shifts may be inevitable due to the market’s tendency toward options. More economical for wind and solar energy.

In Asia, more than 2.2 million people work in coal mines, according to the Global Mining Movement report, and China leads the way.

China is home to more than 1.5 million coal miners, who are responsible for generating more than 85% of the country’s coal. This represents half of global coal production. Followed by India and Indonesia.

Indonesia, which has about 160,000 coal miners, is expected to boost its production enough to rival that of India for the first time next year, GEM said.

The NGO said China’s Shanxi province alone is likely to lose about a quarter of a million mining jobs by mid-century.

The forecast is based on data from the Global Coal Mine Tracker, which provides live information on 4,300 active and proposed coal mines globally, representing more than 90% of the world’s coal production.

“Coal mine closures are inevitable, but economic hardship and social strife for workers are not,” said Dorothy Mee, Global Coal Mine Tracker project manager at Global Energy Monitor.

“Actionable transition planning is happening now, as in Spain where the country is regularly reviewing the ongoing impacts of decarbonisation,” she said, adding that governments must learn from their success to plan their “fair energy transition strategies”.

To limit global warming to 1.5°C under the Paris Agreement guidelines, GEM estimates that only 250,000 coal miners are needed. This is less than 10% of the current workforce.

Economic impact

Coal mining jobs also greatly impact local economies. Mining towns often depend heavily on coal companies for wages, taxes, and even schools and hospitals.

Past job losses since the bankruptcies of the 1980s and 1990s have led to economic distress, and future job cuts could have similar effects.

GEM said workers deserve a “just transition” to new employment sectors, particularly those offering well-paying jobs in clean and renewable energy.

Mining takes place in an open pit mine near Dhanbad, an eastern Indian city in the state of Jharkhand, on September 24, 2021. Source: Associated Press
Mining takes place in an open pit mine near Dhanbad, an eastern Indian city in the state of Jharkhand, on September 24, 2021. Source: Associated Press

In 2016, China’s Ministry of Finance introduced the Industrial Special Fund, allocating $14 billion to reemploy 1.8 million workers in the coal and steel industries.

However, with each person receiving just over $6,887, GEM said the adequacy of the fund is debatable.

China Energy, the country’s leading mining and energy company, is among the country’s top five renewable energy investors.

With renewables making up 28.5% of its capacity and coal 72%, the company aims to boost clean energy to more than 50% by 2025, in line with government targets.

An opportunity for a sustainable future

After a year that saw devastating mining accidents, major labor disputes, and public opposition to mining activities, it is essential that coal miners are given the opportunity to seek a safer and more sustainable future, GEM said in the report.

Hundreds of workers have died as a result of underground explosions, tunnel collapses, and equipment accidents in mines around the world.

At least six people were killed when a large section of the pit wall collapsed at the Axla League coal mine in China in February, and 47 others are still missing.

China Labor Bulletin, an NGO that monitors work-related accidents in China, recorded 69 coal mine-related accidents and deaths in 2022, with 23 cases reported this year.

“The coal industry, in general, has a very poor reputation for its treatment of workers,” said Ryan Driskel Tate, director of the coal program at GEM.

“What we need is proactive planning for workers and coal communities…so the industry and governments will remain accountable to these workers who have borne the brunt for too long.”

Edited by Taejun Kang and Elaine Chan.

(Tags for translation)India

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