Digital tools transform coal mining industry
Huge gas valves are produced at a plant in Yangquan. [Photo by Liu Sheng for China Daily]
Yangquan, a traditional coal mining city in the east of Shanxi province, is experiencing an economic revitalization thanks to its technological transformation.
Local officials said the transformation features digitalized upgrades of traditional industry players and the development of emerging sectors as new growth drivers.
Huayang Group, for instance, is one of the leading coal-mining companies in Yangquan. Its operations have been recently upgraded with digital and intelligent technologies, resulting in great improvements in efficiency, safety and cut pollution.
The group's No 1 Coal Mine is one of the pioneers in digital operations in Yangquan, by launching 5G-connected, intelligent coal-mining shafts.
With a 5G network reaching hundreds of meters under the ground, the company's mining operations are now controlled by a coordinating center on the surface. It has basically realized automation for coal cutting and conveying, improving efficiency and safety.
To date, Yangquan boasts two smart coal mines and 57 intelligent coal-mining shafts. This means that 94.5 percent of the city's coal output is produced by advanced, digitalized facilities.
Sunshine Power Generation, a power plant in Yangquan's Pingding county, is using a 5G-connected sensing system to monitor water quality.
"In the past, water quality inspections needed a team of five workers," said Geng Lei, a company executive in charge of 5G operations. "Today, just one person is needed for the same job thanks to the new system."
Huading Machinery in Yangquan High-Tech Development Zone is another example of the industrial digitalization. It uses digitally controlled machining centers in its production.
Guo Changzheng, board chairman of the company, said all its 70-plus machine tools are digitally controlled and network-connected. It allows full automation of almost all the machining procedures.
He added that, the new equipment features great accuracy, with the qualification rate of machined components reaching almost 100 percent.
While traditional industries, like coal mining, power generation and machine building are revitalized with the use of digital technologies, emerging sectors in Yangquan are giving the local economy an additional boost.
These new industries include new energy batteries, new materials and new energy resources, as well as the digital economy.
Huayang Group is a pacesetter in Yangquan's new energy battery industry, thanks to its diversification efforts.
On Sept 30, 2022, the company announced the operation of the world's first facility for mass-produced sodium-ion cells, with an annual capacity of 1 gigawatt-hours.
Wang Yongge, board chairman of the company, said the battery industry is an extension of the coal industry.
"The negative electrode is a kind of carbon-based material made from coal," he explained.
Enterprises of above designated scale – those with an annual sales revenue of 20 million yuan (2.89 million) – in Yangquan's emerging industries reported an average increase of 17 percent in incremental value in 2022. They contributed 2.9 percentage points to the local economic growth rate, according to the city's statistics bureau.
Bai Xuefeng contributed to this story.