Russian Coal Production To Exceed Peak RSFSR Levels in 2018


Russian (blue) and Ukrainian (red) coal production 1990-2017. (Source: genby).

Russia coal production has expanded by 6.7% during the seven months of this year, so it should produce at least 430 million tons of coal this year.


RSFSR/RF (red) and Russian Empire/USSR (dark red) coal production 1897-2005.

This would place it ahead of the all time peak of RSFSR coal production of 420 million tons, reached in 1988. Some 200 million of this is exported, up from a couple of tens of millions of tons in the late 1990s.

This is accompanied by great increases in productivity – coal output per worker doubled in the 2000s alone.

Meanwhile, the rate of accidents has been plummeting.


Mining safety in the RSFSR and Russia. From top to bottom at the start: Accidents, fires, cave-ins, and explosions. (Via genby)


Mining safety in Russia since: Orange – number of deaths; red – number of accidents. (Via Rossiyskaya Gazeta).

It is worth noting that there the coal industry in Russia is highly competitive and not wrangled up in state ownership.

There was a good FT article about it a few months ago: Russia’s next revolution: how technology came to the mines

Suek, the coal-mining group that runs Kosmin’s mine, is currently rolling out big-data tools and automation across its 26 mines in Kemerovo and elsewhere in Siberia. In some mining operations, it is even experimenting with completely replacing workers with machines. “There are a lot fewer people needed down there now,” says Kosmin. “I saw how my dad worked, and heard his stories. They needed a bunch of people just to get the drive going, and they were still working with shovels. Now I just push a button.” …

The threat of job cuts hangs over many Kemerovo towns like a layer of industrial smog — a fear that dates back to the waves of lay-offs that people have endured since the Soviet Union went under in 1991. “At the end of the 1980s, up to 330,000 people were employed in the coal industry in Kemerovo Oblast, but now this number is down to 91,000,” says Yuri Shevelyov, a mining professor and adviser to the region’s deputy governor.

But the comfort is only skin-deep. “Eventually, machines will replace all of us,” says Anatoly, 60, an electrical machinist who maintains the ventilation system at one of the largest coal mines in Polysaevo. Having worked underground for 41 years, he laughs bitterly as he says that the only jobs being created are “for accountants”. In the past, he explains, “being a miner was like, wow, a miner, proud. No more. Now it’s something below average. In the past, we would be walking around like real men. Now people say, ‘What for?’ It’s no longer a prestigious profession.”

Over the past two years, Suek has piloted Russia’s first fully automated longwall in Polysaevo, trying to cut coal underground without a single worker on site. Although company executives say the project has shown that its mines are not ready for full automation, the experiment has spooked the locals. …

Yevgeny Kosmin believes that he will be among the winners. As Suek offers merit-based pay components, his record-breaking brigade’s modern mine has been a good place to work. In July, he took home Rbs183,000 (£2,400) — more than four times the salary ordinary workers in neighbouring mines say they get.

Such perks have won him over to a fundamentally different industrial economy. “Progress will not stand still. I think human labour will decrease — humans will just watch and control the technology,” he says. “Man will press a button, everything starts spinning, he sits, watches it work via a monitor. In a clean shirt, not smeared in dirt. I think it will come to that.”

In other news, Russian private gas producer Novatek is now worth more than state-owned behemoth Gazprom.


Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Felix Keverich says

    In other news: ecological disaster in Russia’s Crimea. There has been release of acid at a “Crimean Titan” industrial plant. The plant produces some weird chemical junk. It is owned by a company belonging to a Ukrainian olygarch Firtash and pays taxes in the Ukraine.

    Cassad is saying the incident is no big deal as they happened all the time under Ukrainian regime.

  2. That is what is happening in every industry, at the IB I used to work at robotics and automating processes was the priority. Ironically the work outsourced to India was returning home, to be done by robots overseen by workers in London.

  3. One other thing my Romanian experience tells: official statistic in the eighties were filled with lies. So, if anything, the improvements seen today must be even ampler.

    Offtopic: the “socialists” that currently run Romania are reforming the social welfare system, by moving people with cancer, AIDS, and schizophrenia, off the list of officially recognized disabilities. If they request, they will be able to receive the same money as the other long-term unemployed, 160 dollars a month.

    All the talk about socialism in Romania, and probably in Eastern Europe, is merely signaling: some groups like to distinguish themselves by demonizing the past, and the others are merely ignoring the subject. Relevant for this blog, the “reformers” tend to go overboard, by claiming that the “socialists” are fundamentalist Orthodox, anti-gay, Putin’ / Jinping / Erdogan slaves. However, there is no substantial difference on these topics between the two groups, especially because most of their members freely move between parties.

  4. Thulean Friend says

    Interesting read. The Kremlin comes across as oddly professional, dare I say even mildly competent, which of course makes me suspicious. Anything to what the author says?

  5. I am assuming that most of the export goes to China.

  6. Quite a long time before Moore’s Law, I think about in the 1880s or 1890s, people noticed that coal production/use was doubling about every ten years or so.

    I imagine it is not true anymore though since there are more sources of power and TFR has collapsed. Still, I bet there are a few interesting energy trends, like perhaps one for various types of rocket fuel.

  7. Most of Russia’s thermal coal production is consumed domestically. About half of its coking coal production is exported, mostly to China, yes, but also to Japan, Korea and other smaller Asian markets. China mines a lot of coal itself, but has instituted various environmental regulations recently that have driven production costs to those much higher than Russia’s.

  8. Just earlier this year, Poland experienced a massive ecological catastrophe and tens of thousands of deaths, as a result of too much reliance on coal powered electricity-generating stations.

    Poland is extreme, as they reportedly use low quality coal without sufficient regulations. Improving quality of coal can contribute to improvement. But more important and significant, is changing to gas powered electricity plants.

    This is a longterm project in Russia, and ratio of coal power generation in Russia is now one of the lower rates for major countries in the world (around 4 times less than China and India). (There’s still a lot of pollution from other sources, but at least the coal power generation is unusually low).

  9. Thorfinnsson says
  10. Lars Porsena says

    Can you provide any link to news of what you’re talking about?

  11. No, he can’t provide any reliable truthful link – because he’s a paid neoliberal Russian Jewish shill, the main purpose of whose sudden appearance and copious posting on this website is to disparage any kind of nationalistic/socialistic/sovereign economic and social policies and promote neoliberal globalist economics, mentality and lifestyle.

    Just look at the sheer nonsensicality of what he writes (or, rather, pulls out of where the sun don’t shine): “Just earlier this year, Poland experienced a massive ecological catastrophe and tens of thousands of deaths, as a result of too much reliance on coal powered electricity-generating stations.” TENS OF THOUSANDS of deaths, just in ONE year, JUST in Poland, from a sudden “massive ecological catastrophe” – something which has mysteriously remained unknown and unreported anywhere in Europe or the world until now! Yeah, right…

  12. In Poland, it’s around 40,000 deaths a year from smog. But this February, it reached an ecological catastrophe across the country.

    At the same time, for political reasons, they are trying to reduce gas supplies from Russia, while what is required is to reduce their ratio of coal powered electricity stations.

  13. The news was reported around the world.*

    Parbes – some strangely angry man, who appears at mysterious times to write insults to strangers who he knows nothing about.


  14. Lars Porsena says

    Yeah, I found that. They’re claiming smog harms health and causes people to die earlier. No one actually died with cause of death listed as “smog”.

    It’s very speculative at best, and all the seemings of environmentalist agitprop. One could as easily claim that 5 million people died this year due to power lines, because, theoretically, living next to power lines lowers life expectancy. (I just made that up but you can’t prove it’s not true and if I get published the media might hype it).

    Or maybe we should say that 50 million people died last year from eggs, since eggs have a lot of cholesterol, and having high cholesterol decreases your life span.

    You can take these things as a given if you want to but this is essentially junk science. I have been looking around and I have found a lot of media hype about such studies but no actual studies. I’d like to see the studies and how they’re actually attributing causality to the smog. Steve Sailer has a post up, and although this is not social science I take it you know there is this thing called the replication crisis? A lot of this stuff is made up because it’s politically expedient.

  15. Lars Porsena says

    Ross McKitrick, the canuck guy who killed Mann’s hockey stick graph:

    In other words, air pollution killed more people inside the computer model than actually died of all causes in the real world. How’s that for deadly?

  16. They’re claiming smog harms health and causes people to die earlier. No one actually died with cause of death

    Health effects of coal smog are well established for decades, and observed in different cases around the world.

    How Poland and WHO estimate the precise number of deaths probably more contentious, and could be imprecise (just as much as for London Smog)- but you can assume they use internationally accepted standards.

    High level of smog in Poland, are objectively measurable, and the worse in Europe. The cause is coal burning. As is an obvious solution – for them to switch to gas powered electric stations. They need Russian help in this, but politics has prevented them.

    and all the seemings of environmentalist agitprop. One

    For example, Chelyabinsk has its famous ecological situation since 2014.

    One of the causes of air pollution is the coal mine outside Korkino. Clouds of smoke from constant coal-seam fire fly over 35 kilometers, to hang over Chelyabinsk. (Living near a coal mine is not fun, at least if you are in its prevalent wind direction).

    Other factors of the ecological situation, are that one of four thermal power stations of the city are coal powered. And the city’s huge amount of metallurgical industry, including the zinc plant.

    Obviously, metallurgy is not relevant to this topic (and just needs to be moved out of the city). But coal production and energy generation is also a factor in the Chelyabinsk smog.

    People emigrating from Chelyabinsk, are not environmentalists. Also people who don’t want to leave their homes in the morning last year.

    Oligarchs who own some of mines around Chelyabinsk, have some nice houses in West London, and became known in London media when they want to rebuild historic houses. In London, which was once famous for smog – the wind travels from West to East, and it’s historic reason the West is the desirable part of the city.

  17. Thorfinnsson says

    I realize this isn’t your point, but high cholesterol is in fact associated with less mortality.

    Which actually does illustrate your point well. White robed terrorist quacks BTFO yet again.

  18. Thorfinnsson says

    Atomic energy could do quite a lot to reduce smog.

    Aside from the obvious example of nuclear power generation to replace fossil fuel thermal generation, atomic energy could be employed in a number of industries where fossil fuels are currently used for various industrial processes.

    Coke is ultimately required for steel making (since steel has carbon in it by definition), but there’s no physical law that says fossil fuels are necessary to produce cement (kilns are heated to 1450 C) or crack oil in the refining process.

    Thus atomophobes are directly responsible for mass murder.


    Russia is the worlds largest exporter of grain. It is #3 in coal. The devaluation in the ruble vs developed economies (from sanctions) helped.

    However, being a power house in agriculture or coal hardly moves the needle as these are a small portion of the economy.

    The worst coal generation is dirty. The most advanced plants emit much less particulate as well as being much more efficient.

    Coal still produces 40% of the planet’s electricity, and researchers in Germany have figured out a way to make the fossil fuel just a bit more palatable. Their ultra-efficient plant design produces 40% fewer emissions compared to a conventional coal-fired station.

    This is important because switching away from coal too quickly could leave an energy gap, where there is not enough green power to meet demand. The U.K., for example, faces this situation in the next decade. Coal-fired power stations and nuclear reactors are set to go offline, while subsidies for wind and solar power have been cut. The country may, says a new study, face a power deficit where demand outstrips supply by 40%.

    Germany is choking on green energy and starving for base load. Hence it had to build coal plants to to handle base loads.

  20. Lars Porsena says

    OK first just let me say, the way you kind of phrased it, and the way a lot of the media reports it, these deaths are directly caused by smog.

    But that is specious, and it is so even if you think there is big problem with smog and it needs to be lowered. Maybe they need to improve air quality, but the way this gets reported is bunk. The people die of something like “congestive heart failure” or “lung cancer”. It is a bunch of statistical models making the claim that these are linked to smog.

    Even if you accept the statistical models as valid, contrary to how the media likes to report it, these are not deaths caused by smog but deaths at best associated with smog. If we say 80,000 people died 2 years early because of smog, they were going to die at some point anyway so you can’t double count another 80,000 2 years later. Even assuming it’s all true, decreasing everyone’s life span by 2 years is not the same as causing deaths. It’s deceptive and misleading.

    Then there is the issue that these things are based on statistical models that have a lot of problems in this area and many others, especially when they are political. They are very contentious, it’s by no means a solid factual thing but highly speculative and very political. And the political-ness of it by itself should give anyone caution about taking it at face value.

    You say I can just assume these things are decided by internationally accepted standards, and I do in fact assume so, I’m sure they are. But just because you have an internationally accepted standard doesn’t mean any of it is true. There are many problems with these computer models. You may be aware that all the global warming models have essentially failed now, despite being internationally accepted. And the same kind of politics is also prevalent internationally. So to me it means very little.

    All that being said, I will grant you that smog and air pollution are real problem in some places for sure, just look at big cities in China. I don’t know anything about Chelyabinsk but if they have a toxic smog problem they have a toxic smog problem and they should probably fix it. I am certainly against some oligarch being allowed to poison everyone and the environment just so they can cut corners to make more money, so where that is happened it should be stopped, and it certainly happens.

    But that’s separate from whether I will believe these shady figures about deaths being caused everywhere. And these figures about smog deaths are absolutely not limited to places with real air quality problems where people don’t want to go outside. If they were, I might credit them more. Like I was saying about there being a lot of politics involved with this, these smog deaths claims are being routinely made about everywhere in the world, even places with terrific air quality, on the basis of computer models, which should tell you they are sketchy.

    It is a very typical type of sketchiness that gets a lot of grants. McKitrick is practically a specialist at debunking a lot of these bogus computer models, and he shows us again I think a great example that even if there really is a smog problem that’s killing people, the models they are using (globally) are still bunk again, and that’s sketchy.

  21. Lars Porsena says

    Good point.

  22. McKitrick is right. Here are 2012 data (from models obviously) of highest death rates from pollution:

    Anyway, Poland is not in the first 10 worst countries.

  23. No, he can’t provide any reliable truthful link – because he’s a paid neoliberal Russian Jewish shill, the main purpose of whose sudden appearance and copious posting on this website is to disparage any kind of nationalistic/socialistic/sovereign economic and social policies and promote neoliberal globalist economics, mentality and lifestyle.

    You got it except that he is not paid. He just believes the shit.

  24. High costs to build them, and it seems to require a lot of time. Poland will receive its first atomic station by 2029.

    By comparison, converting coal electric stations to gas powered ones, is by relatively quick and not nearly so expensive. It’s more efficient than coal and pays back its costs for conversion.

    Poland needs to increase its gas supplies, and dreaming about the unrealistic pipeline from Norway (Baltic pipe), and increasing more expensive LNG imports from the USA.

    Responsible way for them to solve the ecological catastrophe, is to convert the coal stations to gas, increase proportion of gas energy to their energy mix (currently only 16%), and finance expansion of second line of the Yamal – Europe pipeline, and a massive rise in gas imports from Russia.

    But Poland is trying to reduce imports of gas from Russia, and more obsessed with blocking other nations supplies of gas (Nord Stream 2). While Yamal- Europe 2 frozen since 2014. The actions of politicians would be a theme for comedy or tragedy.

  25. Anarcho-Supremacist says

    Well I think this debunks the “natural gas is killing coal” NPR esque talking point you always fucking here(sorry I get triggered every single fucking time I here it) when it comes to the collapse of the US coal industry. Shit gas was cheaper then back in the 90s but coal was still the largest electricity source then. Its obvious that regulation is killing coal in the US debunk me if I am wrong green cucks and if not then suck a soy cock.

  26. Anarcho-Supremacist says

    “Coke is ultimately required for steel making (since steel has carbon in it by definition)”

    It is right now the most practical way to do it but alternatives exist. You can use some charcoal or carbon monoxide gas. Aluminum electrical style smelting is just around the corner for Iron ore and that would make coke obsolete for steel making.

    “crack oil in the refining process.”

    Shoot if you could make electricity cheap enough you could make gasoline/diesel/kerosene from sea water. The US navy is working on that right now.

  27. Anarcho-Supremacist says

    “s, and dreaming about the unrealistic pipeline from Norway (Baltic pipe),”

    Well a Norway to Poland pipeline would be easier to make then Nord Stream 2 so I don’t know how unrealistic it is?

  28. A recurring number of annual deaths (spread over the whole year) attributed to a long-time, preexisting cause, even if the attribution is correct and even if the number spiked this year, is not a sudden, unexpected “massive ecological catastrophe” happening “earlier this year”. This is what you wrote: “Just earlier this year, Poland experienced a massive ecological catastrophe and tens of thousands of deaths, as a result of too much reliance on coal powered electricity-generating stations.” As if, suddenly at the beginning of this year, there had been an unforeseen massive disaster involving coal power stations, something like an earthquake, tsunami or nuclear meltdown, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths at once.

    The way a person writes and expresses himself/herself, displays his/her mental level and capability. This is your mental level, apparently.

    I insult people who deserve to be insulted. I also write many opinion posts in which no specific person is being attacked. It’s your loss that you don’t read and learn from them – at least insofar as ability to express yourself is concerned..

  29. to solve the ecological catastrophe

    This language gives you away. Do you work for Gazprom?

  30. The deaths are calculated according to models and they are not actually measured as no specific death can be 100% attributed to pollution.

    Here they have some data with death rates per 100,000 due to PM 2.5 and separate due to NO2.

    Nothing alarming there. Bulgaria has the highest and then Hungary, Poland and 7 other countries have rate higher than 100 for PM 2.5. Poland’s rate is 121 while Germany which is 13th in Europe has rate 81. Because of population difference many more Germans than Poles would die of this pollution if for a moment we would consider the deaths not bogus.

    Things do not appear in media w/o a reason particularly when the coverage is intense and alarmist as Dmitri was kind enough to parrot it here. Poland is under the squeeze by Germany and Russia. There is a power struggle between two factions in Poland: EU/German faction and US/Israel faction. Neither of these factions has Polish sovereignty (which is limited) and interest in mind. But they throw at each other lots of shit. Events are created and the defused and forgotten. It kind of resembles what is going between Trump and his opponents in the US.

  31. Just a note that that I largely agree with your arguments here, which are supported by mainstream research:

    Don’t let utu’s low grade trolling get to you – he loves flinging these shill accusations around. He has already driven out German_reader with his toxicity.

  32. Not easier, the construction of NS II has already started.

  33. Thorfinnsson says

    The high costs are due to atomophobes gumming up the works. South Korea and Japan actually reduced costs and construction time.

    More evidence that atomophobes need to be executed.

  34. Thorfinnsson says

    Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon by definition. Yes, you can get around coke though techniques like directed reduced iron (employs natural gas) or go old school with charcoal, but because carbon must be introduced you more or less need hydrocarbons by definition.

    “Electrical style” steel already exists and has for over a century. It is known as an electric arc furnace. Nucor is the leading practitioner of this style. It mostly employs scrap steel as raw material, though it can also employ direct reduced iron.

    I’m extremely skeptical of the idea that producing fuel from water will ever be cheaper than drilling for oil. Besides, the real goal is to get reactors small enough that gasoline and diesel become obsolete for anything larger than a chainsaw.

  35. He has already driven out German_reader with his toxicity

    I thought G-R left because the holocaust stuff was too much for him.

  36. anon[371]:

    Regarding Germany’s new base load power plants. They are lignite fueled. Lignite plants are premier polluters.

  37. Nobody here has as much empathy and compassion for the lost soul of GR as I do. He is good and thoughtful person who means well and wants good for the world. He is more human than anybody here. Yet he is inhibited by his decency and programming specifically designed for Germans that he was subjected to. This manifested itself in peculiarly German form of cuckiness. He was more fed up with Soviet and British WWII triumphalism often expressed here at UR and mindless nationalistic quarrels (eg. Ukrainian vs. Russians) than with my efforts of trying to cure him from his typically German cuckiness. Every medicine is toxic. Perhaps I did apply too much of it.

    Otoh, Dmitri is an amoral child. His innocence has an evil streak. Even children when evil sometimes must be destroyed if they can’t be reformed

  38. Anarcho-Supremacist says

    I am not talking about electric arc furnaces(that is essentially scrap metal recycling) I am talking about something newer then that.

    “Besides, the real goal is to get reactors small enough that gasoline and diesel become obsolete for anything larger than a chainsaw.”

    Good luck with that. Shielding is the main thing that makes reactors heavy. Most reactor cores are surprisingly small.

    “I’m extremely skeptical of the idea that producing fuel from water will ever be cheaper than drilling for oil. ”

    Of course the real question is if it ever does what is the point? Why not just use electricity? Many applications now can use it

  39. which are supported by mainstream research:

    Thanks. It’s useful to see nuclear energy is the safest – but it is usually appearing slow and expensive to switch to atomic stations, by comparison with conversion of coal stations to gas.

    The coal stations are in some cases converted to gas, within a year – if the supply and good prices are available.

    It gives a perspective on the importance of increasing gas supplies to China, with both new pipelines and now new Arctic shipments of LNG to China.

    For China it’s become viewed as a national priority to switch from coal – increasing ratio of gas powered energy generation (and reducing coal), will be one of the most direct ways they can increase their quality of life in the next years.

    Current energy mix in China is better than Poland, but ratio of gas is even lower (only 10%, comparable to 16% in Poland). It’ll be interesting case to see how fast China changes now.

    Don’t let utu’s low grade trolling get to you – he loves flinging these shill accusations around. He has already driven out German_reader with his toxicity.

    It’s a strange character. He obviously wants more attention, and this is how he tries to get it from certain users.

  40. The northern stream is for Germany. Poland is supplied mainly by Yamal-Europe line, and there was supposed to be a second one, to double the capacity.

    If you recall, planned to be completed in 2019. It was signed a memorandum between Tusk and Miller, in 2013. A year later in 2014, Poland has suddenly refused to support the second line.

    Now, in 2018 – Poland in ecological disaster from its usage of low quality coal, and yet gas remains only 16% of their energy mix.

    A solution to ecological catastrophes are very clear, – to increase gas supplies, and convert coal stations to gas – but for the politicians according to the Polish analysts above in the video, there is mass hysteria and irrationality surrounding the topic of increasing gas supplies from Russia. LNG shipments from America are more expensive, and domestic shale gas industry has not been successful.

  41. Thorfinnsson says

    I liked German_reader, but if he was driven off the site by Utu then he’s a bitch.

    Utu is a total nobody.

  42. Perhaps, but if we still talk about Chelyabinsk – the most preventable contribution of metallurgical plants to the problematic ecological situation there, is how this industry located in or adjoining the city.

    The winds are coming more often from the North West direction. And where are some of the main metallurgical complexes? They are in the North West of the city.

  43. and there was supposed to be a second one, to double the capacity.

    A mistake in my comment here. It would have increased it by 50% (not a doubling).