MAC: Mines and Communities

Trapped and killed in China's coal fields

Published by MAC on 2011-11-08
Source: Xinhua via Reuters, AP (2011-10-30)

Last month, the Beijing government announced it was cutting the country's coal output (albeit by a minimal amount) as it "consolidated" existing mines into larger units. See: China's energy-saving campaign saves 150 mln tons of coal

Over recent years the administration has ascribed the worst excesses caused by coal mining  - whether for the environment or workers - to smal or illegal collieries.

Indeed, official statistics show there has been a marked reduction in the number of fatalities since 2002, as these unregulated operations have been forced to close.

However, in just the past ten days, 29 miners were killed by a blast at a mine in southern China.

And last week fifty workers were reported to be trapped deep underground following another explosion in the central part of the country.

Although most of them were reported to have been rescued at the weekend, there is still "some confusion" as to how many survived the disaster - and even the number of workers who were underground at the time.

It is sobering to realise that both these mines aren't "fly by night" operations, but owned and controlled by the state.

Latest China mine disaster kills 29 people

Xinhua via Reuters

30 October 2011

BEIJING - A blast at a coal mine in southern China has killed 29 people, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday, in the latest disaster to hit the accident-prone industry.

The gas explosion happened on Saturday afternoon at the state-owned Xialiuchong colliery in Hunan province's Hengyang while 35 miners were at work, the report said.

One miner who had remained alive was later found dead, it said. The six survivors have been sent to hospital.

Luo Lin, the head of the State Administration of Work Safety, and Hunan governor Xu Shousheng have arrived at the site of the accident to oversee the investigation, Xinhua said.

The mine had been operating legally, it said. Many disasters happen at illegal mines, or those that the government has closed down and have then been surreptitiously reopened.

China's mines are the deadliest in the world, due to lax safety standards and a rush to feed demand from a robust economy.

In 2010, 2,433 people died in coal mine accidents in China, although this was an improvement on the toll of 2,631 a year earlier. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)


52 coal miners rescued following explosion that left eight dead

Clifford Coonan in Beijing

Irish Times

7 November 2011

THERE WAS some rare positive news after the latest disaster to strike the Chinese coal mining industry - the world's deadliest - as rescuers pulled all 52 survivors to safety by Saturday morning, 40 hours after a massive cave-in destroyed a mineshaft in Henan province in central China.

Eight were killed in the explosion in the Qianqiu mine in Yima city, in western Henan.

State TV station CCTV ran pictures of rescue workers bringing the workers out of the mine shaft and giving them oxygen.

Rescuers were only able to connect the stranded workers underground at 6am on Saturday, when the search team reached 550 metres into the shaft. The 52 survivors and four dead victims were successfully brought to the surface after rescuers managed to unblock the shaft half an hour later.

"I was very nervous at first. But our captain told us to stay cool, and we kept encouraging each other down there," one miner, Pei Sanguo (37), told local media.

There was some confusion about how many were rescued and how many had been underground at the time of the explosion, after the mine's operator, the state-owned Yima Coal Mine Group, said there had been 75 miners in the shaft at the time of the explosion, and only 14 managed to escape to the surface immediately. The company chairman Wu Yulu later said that there had been an error in counting the number of those who escaped.

China's coal mining industry's safety record has improved since the government began to crack down on small illegal mines. Last year there were 2,433 fatalities, compared to nearly 7,000 in 2002.

The accident was caused following an explosion in a tunnel after a minor earthquake. Most of the trapped miners were able to survive because there was enough space and ventilation, the rescue crew said later.


50 miners trapped after explosion in China mine

Gillian Wong

The Associated Press

4 November 2011

Beijing - Rescuers pulled seven injured miners to the surface Friday and were trying to reach 50 others trapped after a rock explosion in a coal mine in central China, state media reported.

Four miners were killed in the rock blast Thursday evening and 14 managed to escape, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The rock explosion happened just after a small earthquake shook near the mine in the city of Sanmenxia in Henan province.

State broadcaster CCTV showed rescuers with helmets and oxygen tanks carrying out the seven found alive early Friday afternoon from a mine elevator as waiting officials applauded each rescue and medical staff rushed to attend to them.

The miners lay on stretchers, wrapped with blankets with their eyes covered by towels to prevent them from being damaged by the sudden exposure to light after hours of being trapped. They were rushed to waiting ambulances, CCTV showed.

Xinhua said six had minor injuries but one was seriously hurt.

At least 200 workers were digging a small rescue tunnel about 500 metres deep to try to reach the trapped miners, the People's Daily newspaper's website said. The structural status of the mine and the conditions of the miners were not known.

The Qianqiu Coal Mine belongs to Yima Coal Group, a large state-owned coal company in Henan, the State Administration of Work Safety said on its website.

Luo Lin, the head of China's State Administration of Work Safety, said a magnitude 2.9 earthquake occurred near the mine shortly before the "rock burst" was reported.

The phenomenon occurs when settling earth bears down on mine walls and cause a sudden, catastrophic release of stored energy. The exploding chunks of coal and rock, or the shock waves alone, can be lethal.

The survival of the trapped miners depends on the intensity of the rock explosion and the rescuers' ability to provide ventilation to them, a local official told The Associated Press.

"If it was not very strong, it might have caused the tunnel to get narrower, but we might still be able to send some air in there to ensure ventilation," said the Yima city Communist Party's head of propaganda, who would give only his surname, Tian, as is common with Chinese officials.

"But if the impact was pretty strong and caused the tunnel walls to collapse, then the ventilation was probably cut off immediately, suffocating the people trapped there," Tian said.

Tian said it was difficult to determine how deep in the mine the trapped workers were.

According to Xinhua, workers were digging a tunnel about 760 metres long, but after the rock burst, the tunnel appeared to have "basically folded" a little more than halfway down the passage, at 480 metres. It was unclear what the condition of the tunnel was beyond that point, Xinhua said.

China's coal mines are the deadliest in the world, although the industry's safety record has improved in recent years as smaller, illegal mines have been closed. Annual fatalities are now about one-third of the high of nearly 7,000 in 2002. Last Sunday, a gas explosion at a coal mine in central China's Hunan province killed 29 workers, the worst accident in recent months.

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