Almost nonstop, gargantuan 145-ton trucks rumble through China's biggest open-pit coal mine, sending up clouds of soot as they dump their loads into mechanized sorters.
The black treasure has transformed this once-isolated crossroads nestled in the sand-sculpted ravines of Inner Mongolia into a bleak boomtown of nearly 300,000 people. Day and night, long and dusty trains haul out coal to electric power plants and factories in the east, fueling China's explosive growth.
Coal is big, and getting bigger. As oil and natural gas prices soar, the world is relying ever more on the cheap, black-burning mainstay of the Industrial Revolution. Mining companies are racing into Africa. Workers are laying miles of new railroad track to haul coal from the Powder River Basin in the U.S. states of Wyoming and Montana.
And nowhere is coal bigger than in China.
For another measure, look at the ticker on the Web site of St. Louis-based Peabody Coal Co., the world's largest coal mining company, which tracks its growing sales second by second. Last year: 248 million tons sold. For 2007: On track for up to 275 million tons....MOREFrom AFX via Forbes:
China Sept coal prices at new high, exports down - regulator
UK govt says increased coal production could play part in future energy mix
Xstrata ups coal price offers to Japanese utilities
From The Times of India:
Coal India eyes blocks in Australia and Canada
...The government sees annual domestic demand rising to 2 billion tonnes by 2031-32 from 460 million tonnes at present. Captive mining too is seen rising from 17 million tonnes a year to over 100 million tonnes by then.