A new case study from the World Coal Association covers the work of the Shenhua Group in helping to preserve precious water resources by pioneering underground reservoirs in Western China.
In China, mining coal and protecting water resources are inextricably linked. There isn't enough fresh water in China to go around. The country's water resource per capita is 2200 cubic metres - a quarter of the global average - and the parts of China with the richest coal fields are arid even by this standard.
In 2013, 71 percent of the coal produced in China came from Western China, an area comprising Shanxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Ningxia. This area's per capita water resource is just 927 cubic metres.
For every tonne of coal they produce, Chinese mines accumulate two tonnes of water, which seeps in through the fissures formed during mining. This mine water is traditionally pumped to the surface to keep the miners safe. But Western China's capacity for surface water evaporation is six times higher than its rainfall. Mine water discharged the usual way would evaporate and be lost, exacerbating the drought.
Shenhua's Research and Development (R&D) team, headed by Dr Gu Dazhao, began working on possible solutions.