Mine Disaster Company Just Started Shipping Coal to China

Even if the US stopped using coal tomorrow (unlikely, since the fossil fuel currently supplies half of our electricity) there would still be coal mining here and presumably still be accidents like the one Monday that killed 25 miners.

That’s because coal companies like Massey Energy, which owns the mine where Monday’s disaster occurred, have begun shipping coal to China and other developing countries to fuel steel mills there. In March the company announced the sale of 80,000 tons of metallurgical-grade coal to China, its first such shipment. The company hopes to sell 2 million tons of coal to India in 2011.

“They’re closing down their unsafe mines in China, and then getting coal from us,” said Ellen Smith, owner of Mine Safety and Health News.

From the Associated Press:

A Massey Energy executive says the coal producer expects to send its first shipment to China later this month.

While cracking one of the world’s largest coal markets is important, Vice President of Planning Mike Bauersachs says Massey sees more promise in India. The developing Asian country’s own steel industry makes it an attractive market for metallurgical grade coal from Appalachia.

Virginia-based Massey and other U.S. coal producers have been trying to cash in on Asia’s appetite for metallurgical steel, which is beginning to force up prices.

According to investing site Seeking Alpha, there are few high-quality metallurgical coal producers in China to serve the steel industry there, the world’s largest. The business opportunity has them bullish on American producers like Massey.

“Even if we as a country say forget it we’re not going to see miners die in these accidents anymore, the coal industry would not go away,” said Smith.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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