One hundred meters underground inside a pit in northern China, miners extract lumps of coal with the flick of a finger on a smartphone. AFP reports that the country is trying to drag the traditionally dangerous and dirty work into the digital era.
The Hongliulin ‘intelligent mine’ in coal-belt Shaanxi province is a flagship facility in a drive to modernize China’s thousands of coal mines, even as the nation pledges to peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
China is the world’s biggest emitter of the pollutants driving climate change, and its promises to curb them are essential to keeping global temperature rises below two degrees Celsius.
But mine digitalization — which aims to improve safety and productivity — shows the continued importance of coal in a country that last year produced nearly 60% of its electricity from fossil fuel.
Smart mines are common in other coal-producing nations like Canada, but China has lagged, and now the government aims to achieve the basic digitalization of all mines by 2035.
On a tour organized by telecoms giant Huawei, whose technology underpins the changes at Hongliulin, AFP journalists saw sensors, intelligent cameras, and 5G relay boxes crisscrossing the facility.