General Reading 5.3


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 27-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.


A.   Coal is expected to continue to account for almost 27 percent of the world’s energy needs. However, with growins international awareness of pressures on the environment and the need to achieve sustainable development of energy sources, the way in which the resource is extracted, transported and used is critical.


A wide range of pollution control devices and practices is in place at most modern mines and significant resources are spent on rehabilitating mined land. [Crack IELTS with Rob] In addition, major research and development programs are being devoted to lifting efficiencies and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases during coal consumption. Such measures are helping coal to maintain its status as a major supplier of the world’s energy needs.


B.   The coal industry has been targeted by its critics as a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect. However, the greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon involving the increase in global temperature due to the presence of greenhouse gases – water vapour, carbon-dioxide, tropospheric ozone, methane and nitrous oxide -in the atmosphere. Without the greenhouse effect, the earth’s average surface temperature would be 33-35 degrees C lower, or -15 degrees C. Life on earth as we know it today, would not be possible.


There is concern that this natural phenomenon is being altered by a greater build-up of gases from human activity, perhaps giving rise to additional warming and changes in the earth’s climate. [Crack IELTS with Rob] This additional build-up and its forecast outcome has been called the enhanced greenhouse effect. Considerable uncertainty exists, however, about the enhanced greenhouse effect, particularly in relation to the extent and timing of any future increases in global temperature.


Greenhouse gases arise from a wide range of sources and their increasing concentration is largely related to the compound effects of increased population, improved living standards, and changes in lifestyle. From a current base of 5 billion, the United Nations predicts that the global population may stabilize in the twenty-first century between 8 and 14 billion, with more than 90 percent of the projected increase taking place in the world’s developing nations. The associated activities to support that growth, particularly to produce the required energy and food will cause further increases in greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge therefore, is to attain a sustainable balance between population, economic growth and the environment.


The major greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide. Chlorofluorocarbons ( CFCs) are the only major contributor to the greenhouse effect that does not occur naturally, coming from such sources as refrigeration, plastics and manufacture. Coal’s total contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is thought to be about 18 percent, with about half of this coming from electricity generation.


C.   The world-wide coal industry allocates extensive resources to researching and developing new technologies and ways of capturing greenhouse gases. [Crack IELTS with Rob] Efficiencies are likely to be improved dramatically, and hence CO2 emissions reduced, through combustion and gasification techniques which are now at pilot and demonstration stages.


Clean coal is another avenue for improving fuel conservation efficiency. Investigations are underway into superclean coal( 3-5 percent ash) and ultraclean coal (less than 1 percent ash). Superclean coal has the potential to enhance the combustion efficiency of conventional pulverised fuel power plants. Ultra clean coal will enable coal to be used in advanced power systems such as coal-fired gas turbines, which operate in combined cycles and have the potential to achieve much greater efficiencies.


D.   Defendants of mining point out that, environmentally, coal mining has two important factors in its favour. It makes only temporary use of the land and produces no toxic chemical wastes. [Crack IELTS with Rob] By carefully pre planning projects, implementing pollution control measures, monitoring the effects of mining and rehabilitating mined areas, the coal industry minimises the impact on the neighbouring community, the immediate environment and long term land capability.


Dust levels are controlled by spraying roads and stockpiles, and water pollution is controlled by carefully separating clean water runoff from runoff which contains sediments or salt from mine workings. The latter is treated and re-used for dust suppression. Noise is controlled by modifying equipment and by using insulation and sound enclosures around machinery.


Since mining activities represent only a temporary use of the land, extensive rehabilitation measures are adopted to ensure that land capability after mining meets agreed and appropriate standards which in some cases, are superior to the land’s pre-mining condition. Whether the mining is underground, the surface area can be simultaneously used for forests, cattle grazing and crop raising, or even reservoirs and urban development, with little or no disruption to the existing land use. In all cases, mining is subject to stringent controls and approval processes.


In open-cut operations, however, the land is used exclusively for mining but land rehabilitation measures generally progress with the mine’s development. As core samples are extracted to assess the quality and quantity of coal at a site, they are also analysed to assess the ability of the soil or subsoil material to support vegetation. Topsoils are stripped and stockpiled prior to mining for subsequent dispersal over rehabilitated areas. As mining ceases in one section of the open-cut, the disturbed area is reshaped. Drainage within and off the site is carefully designed to make the new land surface as stable as the local environment allows; often dams are built to protect the area from soil erosion and to serve as permanent sources of water. Based on the soil requirements, the land is suitably fertilised and revegetated.


Questions 27 - 30

The reading passage has four sections AD.

Choose the most suitable heading for each section from the list of headings below.

Write the appropriate numbers, i-viii, in boxes 27 – 30 on your answer sheet.


List of Headings

i           Global warming

ii          The dangers of the coal industry

iii        Superclean coal

iv         Environment protection measures

v          Coal as an energy source

vi         Coal and the enhanced greenhouse effect

vii       Research and development

viii      Mining site drainage


  • 27.  Section A

  • 28.  Section B

  • 29.  Section C

  • 30.  Section D


Questions 31 - 35

Choose the correct letters, A, B, C or D.

Write the correct letter in boxes 31 -35 on your answer sheet.

31. The global increase in greenhouse gases has been attributed to

  • trends in population and lifestyle
  • reduced rainfall in many parts of the world
  • coal mining and electricity generation
  • industrial pollution in developing countries


32. The proportion of all greenhouse gases created by coal is approximately

  • 14 per cent
  • 90 per cent
  • 27 per cent
  • 18 per cent


33. Current research aims to increase the energy-produced efficiency of coal by

  • recycling greenhouse gases
  • extracting CO2 from it
  • developing new gasification techniques
  • Burning it at a lower temperature


34. Compared with ordinary coal, new ‘clean’ coals may generate power

  • more cleanly but much more slowly
  • more cleanly and more efficiently
  • more cleanly but less efficiently
  • more cleanly but at a higher cost


35. To control dust at mine sites, mining companies often use

  • runoff water containing sediments.
  • fresh water from nearby dams.
  • topsoil taken from the site before mining.
  • chemicals which may be toxic.

Questions 36 - 39

Do the following statements agree with the information in Reading Passage 3?

In boxes 36-39 on your answer sheet, write

YES                             if the statement agrees with the given information

NO                              if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN             if there is no information about this in the passage


  • 36.  The coal industry should be abandoned in favor of alternative energy sources because of the environmental damage it causes. 

  • 37.  The greatest threats to the environment are the gases produced by industries which support the high standard of living of a growing world population.

  • 38.  World population in the twenty-first century will probably exceed 8 billion.

  • 39.  CFC emissions have been substantially reduced in recent years.


Question 40

From the list below choose the most suitable title for the whole of the reading passage.

Write the appropriate letter, A-D, in box 40 on your answer sheet.


  • The greenhouse effect
  • The coal industry and the environment
  • Sustainable population growth
  • Pollution control in coal mining


Result: / Exit

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