MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Deaths in China coal mine accident

Published by MAC on 2010-10-18
Source: Al Jazeera

At least 20 miners killed, some 17 trapped in a coal mine accident, the latest casualty of the notoriously unsafe mines.

At least 20 miners have been killed and more than 17 are trapped underground in a coal mine in China's central Henan province after an accident, state media has reported.

The accident happened on Saturday when the mine in the city of Yuzhou was hit by a "gas outburst", Xinhua news agency said, adding that a rescue operation for the trapped miners was under way.

The China blast comes shortly after the world was riveted by Chile's dramatic rescue of 33 trapped miners after they spent more than two months underground.

An official surnamed Wu with the province's coal mine safety bureau confirmed the accident but had no details. The mine is operated by Pingyu Coal & Electric Company Limited.

The incident is the latest mishap to strike China's notoriously dangerous mining sector.

Inefficiency and corruption

Last year, some 2,630 Chinese miners were killed, according to official statistics, but independent labour groups say the true figure is likely to be much higher as many accidents are believed to be covered up.

The high fatality rate is generally blamed on inefficiency and corruption in the sector, with coal mining being particularly accident-prone.

Internet chatrooms - a rare platform for relatively open debate in Communist-controlled China - slammed the country's safety record after the Chilean rescues.

Some state media editorials said China should learn from the better training and safety systems of the Chilean miners. Many Chinese miners are ill-trained migrant workers toiling in pits where even basic safety is ignored.

The government has repeatedly vowed to shut dangerous mines and strengthen safety, but accidents continue with regularity as mine operators work to pump out the coal on which China relies for about 70 per cent of its energy.

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