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China’s Coal Oversupply Sends Miners Home for Holiday Reunion

For the first time in six years, Liu Jiawei greeted the Chinese lunar new year with his family at home, instead of his fellow colleagues underneath a coal mine.

The 28-year-old coal mine electrician immediately rescheduled his trip back home when the coal mine he worked at in northern Chinese province Shanxi granted workers holiday for the Spring Festival, which fell on Feb. 8 this year.

Previously, coal miners in China barely had time to celebrate as they were kept working to ensure steady coal supply for power generators across the country.

But as coal consumption weakened amid a slowing economy and production surplus mounted, the China National Coal Association urged coal mines across the country to send workers home during the Spring Festival this year, provided that work safety and stable coal supply are guaranteed.

Data compiled by the association shows coal stockpiles around the country remained over 300 million tonnes for four years.

In coal-rich Shanxi, officials have recently decided to allow coal mines to suspend production and give workers a break during statutory holidays and Sundays as part of the province’s effort to address overcapacity in coal production.

For workers, the decision to grant more holidays and rest have produced mixed feelings.

For young miner Shi Yanpeng, the holiday means he can enjoy the festival just like people working in other professions. But he also has a concern that the granting of holidays could be the beginning of extended breaks once overcapacity gets worse.

Some are already returning home with smaller paychecks as sustained weakness in demand has subdued coal prices.

China National Coal Association said granting breaks for coal miners during statutory holidays should become an institutionalized practice in China in the near future as coal supply is expected to remain abundant.

Feb. 2, 2016 on Shanghai Daily.

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