These are the countries that are losing the most coal jobs

The world could be on track to burn a record amount of coal next year despite decades of efforts to slash its contribution to climate change.

Credit banks, cost-cutting, an U.S. recession and technological advances for the recent surge. Together, these have allowed mining companies to dispatch workers in China and India at a time when there isn’t enough demand for energy.

Coal-mining jobs are plummeting worldwide as technology improves and the planet continues to warm, according to the Global Coal Authority, a coalition of businesses and scientists supporting the coal industry. Job losses are heaviest in countries led by populist leaders determined to cut costs.

South Africa, which had lost 22,000 coal jobs by mid-2016, lost about 19,500 more last year and another 8,200 in the first nine months of this year, according to the ANC, South Africa’s governing party. That’s partly because there are more resources from which to mine coal, and partly because conditions are getting less favorable for the industry, said Nkosi Mkhwanazi, an ANC spokesman.

Zimbabwe also is losing jobs because of lower commodity prices, which have forced authorities to slash energy subsidies. A power outage in May led to a temporary shutdown of most of the country’s electricity generating capacity. The long-term effects of state regulations restricting the mining of the country’s uranium, platinum and coal reserves were also another source of job losses.

The IMF predicts that 5 percent of South Africa’s 9 million people will live below the global poverty line by 2030, putting the nation into direct confrontation with the country’s anti-poverty advocates, who say the benefits of economic growth have gone mostly to the wealthy.

The U.S. is also seeing declines in coal mining jobs and especially in the coal companies that have collapsed. In the fourth quarter of 2017, the coal-fired power plants that provide 37 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2016 were running less than 40 percent of the time. In 2012, the generation of power from coal plants was 73 percent of the time.

In 2016, the combined coal mining jobs in the U.S. was 69,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By the third quarter of this year, it was fewer than 55,000. A recent survey by the National Mining Association said this number is likely to decline to 50,000 as the U.S. coal industry grapples with concerns about its financial health.

The Obama administration and many in the industry spent years pushing President Donald Trump to axe an Obama-era federal rule that was supposed to crack down on carbon emissions at power plants. But the plan was blocked by a federal court this year. Coal mining companies have retrenched instead, in part by rejecting the U.S. coal industry’s traditional focus on overseas customers and instead focusing more on domestic demand.

The U.S. economy continues to grow. The International Monetary Fund forecast that the global economy would expand 3.9 percent this year and 3.7 percent next year. But that growth is mainly coming from emerging markets. The U.S. is projected to grow at 2.7 percent this year and next.

Recent dramatic changes in the environment are welcome because burning coal creates greenhouse gases, the type of gases that contribute to climate change. The old practice of mining coal in the open air is set to disappear when new technology can be more efficient and cleaner at underground mines.

The global coal industry, which relies on cheap exports to drive production, is stepping up its activity in Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, exports from firms such as Alunorte and Bumi Armada, both built in South Africa, have increased over the past several years. The results are starting to be seen in growth rates.

The growth has created a more prosperous region, but the increase is driven primarily by the availability of more coal. It is not propelling economic growth, and that has allowed coal mining companies to eliminate tens of thousands of jobs.

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