China Coal Industry Remains Deadliest For Miners

After a deadly gas explosion in a Sichuan coal mine, another blast in Jiangxi killed 15 miners and injured 11, from Xinhua:

Rescuers found the body of the last miner, identified as Zhou Ping, in the shaft of Gaokeng Coal Mine in Pingxiang City of Jiangxi Province at about 3:10 p.m., the rescue headquarters said in a statement.

In addition, 11 injured miners are still under medical treatment at a local hospital. Of the six critically injured, five suffered burns to over 50 percent of their bodies.

Thirty-eight miners were working in the mine when the accident occurred at about 12:55 p.m. Sunday. Twenty-three had escaped on their own or been pulled out to safety.

The investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.

This explosion comes only days after one of the deadliest mining disasters this year. According to the Wall Street Journal, China’s coal industry remains one of the deadliest for miners despite the government’s attempts to improve conditions:

A total of 76 people have been killed in three Chinese coal-mining accidents since Aug. 13, according to reports by the State Administration of Work Safety. In one of the worst accidents in recent years, 45 people were killed in an Aug. 29 mine explosion outside the city of Panzhihua in Sichuan province, while 14 people died in a blast Sunday in Jiangxi province.

Growing social awareness in China of workplace safety, and of the environment, represents an added political challenge to the ruling Communist Party, which faces increasingly loud public demands to deliver more than economic growth.

One of the nation’s largest miners, Shandong province-based Yanzhou Coal Mining Co.,600188.SH -0.35% for instance, says in its latest annual report that it has recorded a rate of zero fatalities per million tons of raw coal mined in each of the past five years. The biographies of its top executives highlight their training in worker safety and its financial accounts tally rising compliance costs, like a 50 yuan-per-metric-ton work-safety charge that applies to one of its big Shanxi mines.

“Credit has to go to the authorities in Shanxi and to some extent Inner Mongolia,” says Geoffrey Crothall, director of communications at the China Labor Bulletin. “But the rest of the country hasn’t gotten the same message.”

Amid the growing need for coal and concern for miners’ safety, the Business Spectator reports the Chinese government’s plans to close over 600 smaller mines:

China’s State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) has decided to close 625 small coal mines this year, Business Standard reports.

According the newspaper, safety monitoring equipment was found to be inefficient, with investigators finding production continued despite the presence of highly concentrated gas in the mind.

SAWS spokesman Huang YI said coal mining remains a high-risk industry in the country despite improvements over the past decade.

“Lessons must be drawn from recent accidents to eliminate potential hazards that also exist in the non-coal mining, transportation, construction and manufacturing sectors, as well as in industries involving the storage of hazardous chemicals, fireworks and explosives,” he said.


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