20 Chinese Coal Miners Killed, 23 Trapped in Latest Accident (Updated)

A mine explosion in Yunnan has killed 20 and left 23 trapped underground, just days after the rescue of over 50 miners in Henan following a cave-in caused by an earthquake. From The Telegraph:

A total of 420 miners have been killed in accidents so far this year, and 183 are still unaccounted for. China’s voracious appetite for coal, which provides more than two-thirds of the country’s electricity, has seen small, and sometimes unsafe, mines pop up across the country ….

… Du Guoyin, a professor at the Chinese University of Geosciences, said the sheer number of coal mines made them difficult to regulate. “These mines are small, and you cannot expect that local officials will always strictly follow the regulations sent down by Beijing,” he said.

“The media pays attention to the accidents, and mines are usually shut down in the aftermath to improve safety controls, but at the same time, China often does not have enough electricity, so unsafe mines are forced to reopen.

“It is also very possible that these accident prone mines have cheated their way through their inspections. And there is no fundamental solution to that,” he added.

ChinaGeeks’ Charles Custer calculates that the official death toll in China’s coal mines over the past ten years—47,676—is equivalent to 31 Titanics, 15 9/11 attacks, 2 Battles of Thermopylae or 1,288 Ted Bundys. But Stephen Sullivan at Seeing Red in China estimates that even these deaths may represent less than a third of the true figure.

Update: The BBC reports that the Yunnan mine had been operating illegally:

The pit, in the south-western Yunnan province, lost its licence a year ago ….

A huge rescue operation is still going on at the mine. Investigators believe a sudden release of gas into the pit trapped the miners.

But there are conflicting accounts of whether it was an explosion or a leak.

The incident happened early on Thursday at the Sizhuang mine in Yunnan province’s Qujing city ….

Xinhua quoted local work safety officials saying the mine had been operating without a licence when the accident happened.

November 10, 2011 11:00 PM
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Categories: Economy, Law, Society