All that Glitters is Coal: Looking at the Coal Ash Industry in China


China has confronted an enormous challenge in coping with the environmental threats caused by its extensive use of coal.  Compounding the problem has been the lack of regulations with regard to the use of high-quality coal over the last decade.  Just a few years back, some coal producers would easily gain approval from the government to put up a quarry site, which inevitably resulted in greater environmental distress in the local area. Ironically, for what had been widely touted as a revenue-generating industry, the coal business had failed to generate an impressive income for the government

But that was then. Today, governments all over the world have been taking smarter measures and implementing regulations to ensure more sustainable development of the coal industry. Authorities are now looking into the annual output of every coal mine, with a view to gradually reduce its numbers by ensuring that every coal mine produces a desirable output. In an effort to mitigate the environmental harm of low-quality coal, authorities are now concentrating on the importation and utilization of high-quality coal. Large coal producers comply with these regulations to address the issues of industrial overcapacity and rising production costs.

The goal toward the stabilization of the coal market has been the main focus of China in recent years. Raising the thresholds for coal imports is making a huge impact in helping the coal industry sector deal with widespread losses. Authorities are also undertaking drastic efforts to tackle the pollution crisis that has caused intense public disquiet. In an attempt to widely utilize recycled coal ash, authorities are building an industrial zone intended to be used as a facility for recycling and the manufacture of other byproducts such as bricks and ceramics. The industrial zone, which requires a substantial investment for both maintenance and development, is large enough to accommodate the huge amount of coal ash produced by China’s coal-fired power plants. In return, the related industries are hopeful that the recycled products from coal ash will generate more revenue and eventually contribute to their annual GDP or Gross Domestic Product. The economic benefits from coal ash remain the ultimate goal. 

These developments have presented China, which uses coal as a primary source of electricity, with more opportunities to realize the other, less obvious, benefits of using coal and coal ash. The outcome of all the regulations relating to coal ash utilization remains to be seen, although there is a clear path toward this aspiration. Continuous government control will be the key. Environmental benefits take a longer time to realize than economic gains, but every effort in the right direction is bound to pay off sooner than later, and China will continue to reap the benefits with coal ash. Hope to create more engineered products from coal ash is making a substantial gain for people who are heavily engaged in this industry.