MAC: Mines and Communities

China: Yunnan gas-leak mine was 'illegal'

Published by MAC on 2011-11-14
Source: BBC News (2011-11-11)

At least thirty workers were killed last week, in the worst coal gas disaster for 15 years in China's Yunnan province.

The mine had been declared "illegal" a year ago, while the province's coal safety bureau ordered it halt production in April  this year.

Yet, still no official action was taken to close the deadly enterprise down.

For previous story on MAC: Trapped and killed in China's coal fields

Official decries lax mining safety

Xinhua

12 November 2011

SHIZONG - The chief of China's work safety watchdog on Saturday decried the poor safety standards at a coal mine where rescuers had pulled out 30 bodies and are still searching for 13 others following a gas outburst three days ago.

Rescuers at a coal mine after a gas leakage accident, Yunnan province
Rescuers at a coal mine after a gas leakage accident, Yunnan
province. Photo: Reuters/Wong Campion

Director of the State Administration of Work Safety Luo Lin, who led a investigation of the Sizhuang Coal Mine, located in the county of Shizong in southwestern Yunnan province, described the mine's safety measures as "very poor."

"There was no monitoring system in the mine; the accident prevention measures were inadequate; and managers defied the order that they should go down in the mine with workers," Luo said.

On Thursday, a powerful gas outburst hit one underground platform of the mine and later spread to another platform, trapping a total of 43 miners. By 7:25 pm Saturday, 30 bodies have been found while 13 others remain missing.

Tunnels were blocked, equipment damaged, toxic gases leaked after the ejaculation of gases, coal and rocks, hampering rescue efforts. Rescuers said by Saturday about 240 tonnes of coal dust had been cleared out and a 250-meter-long section of the mine tunnel had been cleared.

The mine's bosses had been detained as the probe is underway, local officials said.

The mine was found to be operating illegally, having had its license revoked a year ago, according to a statement from the provincial coal safety supervision bureau. The bureau ordered the mine to stop production in April.

While ordering an all-out effort to search for the missing, Luo blamed the local work safety watchdog for lax supervision over mines whose licenses had been revoked.

Luo vowed to launch a thorough investigation of the accident and give severe punishment to those responsible in order to "give the victims' families and the public an answer."

Each of the families of 17 victims has received 10,000 yuan ($1,577) for funeral expenses. Each dead miner's family will get a compensation package of 660,000 yuan, according to rescue headquarters, local officials said.

Luo ordered mining supervision to be reinforced across the country.

Gas explosions, floods and fires are frequent occurrences in China's coal mines, killing hundreds, if not thousands each year.

The accident of Sizhuang coal mine, the deadliest in Yunnan in 15 years, was the second deadly disaster to hit China's dangerous mining sector in a week.

On November 3, a rock outburst occurred in a coal mine in central Henan province, triggered by a 2.9-magnitude earthquake. Eight miners were killed, but 53 others, including 45 who had been trapped underground for 40 hours, were saved in a miracle rescue.

China's Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang on Saturday told a national coal mine accident prevention workshop held in the eastern city of Hefei that despite improving safety standards, China's coal mines still face "a grim situation" to curb accidents.

"The latest coal mine accidents ring the alarm, warning us that accident prevention is a complex, difficult, and urgent task," Zhang said.

While repeating the order to reinforce supervision, Zhang urged researchers to develop new technologies, such as methane capture, and advanced equipment to curb the accidents.

Latest official data shows that more than 2,600 people died in mining accidents in 2009.


China: Yunnan gas-leak mine 'is illegal'

BBC News

11 November 2011

Chinese mine where 21 workers were killed on Thursday and 22 more remain trapped was being operated illegally, state media has reported.

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

The government has tried to shut down illegal mines as it battles to improve the industry's terrible safety record.

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.

A day later, no survivors have been found.

State-run Xinhua news agency reported that the colliery area was shrouded in coal dust that was forced out of the shaft by the burst of gas.

Relatives of the miners have gathered at the pit, some of the wailing and crying.

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

For years, the central government has been waging a campaign to make mines safe.

Much of their focus has been closing down illegal mines, where safety standards can be extremely lax.

The official death toll in pits has come down from a high of about 7,000 in 2002 to about 2,600 in 2009.

But analysts say the Yunnan disaster and another tragedy last week in Henan province serve as reminders that mining in China remains one of the world's most dangerous occupations.

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