MAC/20: Mines and Communities

China Mine Accident Kills More Than 200

Published by MAC on 2005-02-15


China Mine Accident Kills More Than 200

By Juliana Liu, Reuters

February 15, 2005

Beijing - A gas explosion in a coal mine in China's northeastern rust-belt province of Liaoning killed at least 203 workers in the worst disaster in 15 years to hit the world's most dangerous mining industry.

The explosion, on Monday afternoon at the mine in Fuxin city, injured 28 miners and 13 were still trapped, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday. A rescue team of more than 180 people was working to free trapped workers.

The blast occurred 800 feet below ground at the Sunjiawan colliery of the state-owned Fuxin Coal Industry Group, Xinhua said.

Dozens of miners wearing hard hats, dusty uniforms and long faces gathered at the entrance to the mine shaft, waiting for news of missing colleagues.

"We have never seen such a big accident before," said an official at Fuxin's Coal Mine Safety Supervision Bureau.

"The rescue operations are still going on and the coal mine is still verifying the conditions of workers," he told Reuters. "We still don't know the real cause of the accident because the formal investigation has yet to start."

Workers reported feeling a sudden, strong tremor shake the mine 10 minutes before the blast, Xinhua said, quoting Zhang Yunfu, vice general manager of Fuxin Coal.

Moments later, gas detectors lost their signals and one of the mine's main pits filled with smoke, Xinhua said.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called for officials to take "all possible measures" to rescue trapped workers, state television said.

China's mining industry is the world's biggest and its most deadly despite being the target of regular government campaigns to enhance safety and clean up the poorly regulated sector, the main source of fuel for the world's seventh-biggest economy.

China was the site of the world's worst recorded mining disaster when up to 1,572 people were killed on April 26, 1942, in an explosion at the Honkeiko mine.

Injured Workers

The 28 injured workers -- suffering burns, fractures or chemical poisoning -- were taken to hospital. One was hurt seriously and in a coma.

"Most of them are slightly injured, but one of them is suffering from external head trauma," a hospital official said.

About 30 family members of the victims were hospitalised because of deep grief, Xinhua said.

Liaoning Governor Zhang Wenyue was supervising the rescue operation at the mine, which employed 3,100 workers and was designed to produce up to 1.5 million tonnes of coal a year.

Output at the mine used to be low, Xinhua said, before it was acquired three years ago by Fuxin Coal, one of China's biggest coal producers. It was classified as a "high-gas" mine, with high levels of potentially combustible gases.

A Fuxin resident said many of her neighbors worked for the coal mine. "We are of course shocked and feel very sad about it because people are still enjoying the Lunar New Year," she said.

Residents have long depended on coal, oil and metal mining in the area for their livelihoods, but many have lost their jobs because of dwindling reserves, state media have said.

Four years ago, leaders ordered Fuxin to diversify its economy into a modern farming community to create more jobs. But with high unemployment, many miners cling to their dangerous jobs.

A coal mine blast in Fuxin last year killed four people.

Illegal Mines

A spokesman for the State Administration of Work Safety told state television it would carry out a nationwide check on high-gas coal mines.

China's leaders, including Wen, have pledged more high-level attention to work safety.
Last month, Wen signaled the leadership's determination to tackle mine safety when he toured a coal mine in northwestern Shaanxi province where 166 workers died in November in the previous single deadliest accident since 1990.

Wen, who along with President Hu Jintao has tried to cultivate a leadership style that is closer to the people, even ventured 1,300 meters down one pit, where he shook hands with miners and shared a simple lunch.

Illegal mines are routinely shut down in sweeps after major accidents, some only to reopen once inspectors have left.

Last year, more than 5,000 people died in mining accidents.

China last year produced 35 percent of the world's coal but reported 80 percent of global deaths in colliery accidents at a rate of three fatalities per million tonnes of coal.

The average Chinese miner produced 321 tonnes of coal -- just 2.2 percent of what a miner in the more mechanised United States produced and 8.1 percent of what a South African miner produces.

The death rate in Chinese mines is 100 times that of U.S. mines and 30 times that of South African mines, official media have reported.

The government has struggled to regulate thousands of small mines, but a chronic energy shortage and the lure of profits has led many mine operators to ignore orders to close dangerous pits.

(With additional reporting by Kevin Yao, Lindsay Beck and Brian Rhoads)


Chinese media blocked from reporting mining disaster

By China correspondent John Taylor, ABC News

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Chinese authorities have tightened media coverage on one of the country's worst mine disasters.

At least 203 miners died in a gas explosion at a colliery in the country's north-east.

It is one of the worst accidents in China's notoriously deadly mining industry.

Local journalists in Liaoning province where the blast occurred say government officials have ordered a local news blackout.

All local newspapers have been ordered not to cover the story and to use only material supplied by the national State-controlled newsagency.

The directive has apparently come from China's central propaganda department.

Meanwhile, the state administration of work safety has ordered a nationwide check on high gas coal mines.


China plans to set up green GDP system in 3-5 years

Xinhua

3rd December 2004

The Chinese government is working on the criteria and indexes of a green GDP, which deducts the cost of environmental damage and resources consumption from the traditional gross domestic product, and the new set of criteria is expected to be finished in three to five years.

Xu Xianchun, director-general of the department of national accounts of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of China, said Thursday that the NBS has started the work to set up the calculation system of the green GDP, and some pilot provinces and cities have also been chosen.

Xu said as the Chinese central leadership is turning to a scientific concept of development which calls for an overall, coordinated and sustainable development, more Chinese local governments have shown great interest in introducing the green GDP concept into their economic development calculation systems.

Xu said the Chinese government is paying more attention to the importance of environment and resources in the economic growth. The change can be seen in the NBS's latest publication, Statistical Communique of the People's Republic of China on the 2003 National Economic and Social Development.

He said, for the first time, the Communique added a special section on resources and environment, briefing the influence of economic development on resources and environment.

Also a senior statistician of the NBS, Xu said the green GDP deducts from the traditional GDP the costs of resources consumption and environmental loss due to economic activities, and it reflects a different national economic growth rate with the GDP.

Xu said the green GDP can help people understand the costs of resources and environment during the economic development, urging people to realize that it is unreasonable to purely seek economic growth while ignoring the importance of the resources and environment.

China is facing the problems of over-consumption of resources in pursuit of rapid economic growth, said Xu, adding that the pure concept of GDP fails to reflect the influence of economic growth on the resources and environment.

Xu said the green GDP is a scientific concept adopted to evaluate a country's economic development, but he noted that currently there is no country in the world that can establish a whole set of green GDP criteria, which includes not only the index of green GDP, but also the detailed quantity and value for all consumed resources and environmental damage.

Xu said the only way for China to set up the whole system is to work from the very beginning and all local Chinese government eager to adopt the new index as early as possible must realize that the establishment is "a very long process".

According to Xu, China at present still faces difficulties in evaluating the loss of resources and environment incurred by economic activities.

Xu said at the first stage, the NBS plans to adopt the calculation methods the United Nations enshrined in its comprehensive environmental economic account system.

Xu said the whole green GDP system of China is expected to be created in three sequences, with the first step working on quantity of natural resources consumed in economic activities, the second step on quantity of environmental loss caused by economic development, and the last step on valuing the quantity of resources and environmental loss.

According to Xu, the NBS has decided to choose land, forestry, mineral and water resources as the first group of resources to make quantity account. The NBS is also working on the "energy resources account", which will help calculate consumption of energy resources during the economic growth.

The NBS will also expand the experimental scope in the coming years, said Xu. He said, besides Chongqing City and Hainan Province, the NBS will choose more regions to launch more green GDP indexes so as to promote the establishment of the whole green GDP system in China.


China spends on coalmine safety

BBC News

7th March 2005

214 miners died at Sunjiawen in February. China's Premier Wen Jiabao has promised the state is to spend 3bn yuan ($362m; £189m) to "truly make coal mining safe", state media reported. The money will be used to improve safety equipment at state-run mines.

At least 6,000 miners died in China's mines last year, making them the deadliest in the world.

Promoting a gentler society

Mr Wen made the pledge in his speech to the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, stressing the need to improve the lives of poorer Chinese.

He called for "a strong sense of responsibility to the people", and linked the issue of better mine safety to the maintenance of social stability and the building of "a harmonious society", the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Mr Wen has made the need for better treatment of workers and farmers into a major political theme since he became premier two years ago.

China's miners pay for growth

He has sought to promote a caring image by visiting miners, Aids sufferers and flood victims. Meanwhile, central government has increased financial support to farmers and punishments for corrupt rural officials.

China has suffered two major mining disasters in the last four months, most recently in February when 214 miners died in a gas explosion at Sunjiawan in Liaoning province.

Mr Wen chaired a meeting of the State Council to highlight safety after that tragedy, and Liaoning province's vice-governor has been suspended.

However, miners die in smaller-scale accidents almost daily, most often in illegal or under-regulated private mines.

The central State General Administration of Work Safety has stepped up efforts to close unsafe private mines, but strong demand for coal makes them hugely profitable and local officials often collude to keep them open.

Fatalities in Chinese mines accounted for about 80% of coal mining deaths around the world last year.


Más de 200 muertos en China tras una explosión de gas en una mina

El Mundo

Martes, 15 de febrero de 2005

PEKÍN.- Al menos 203 mineros murieron en una explosión de gas en una mina de la provincia de Liaoning (noreste de China), según informó el Gobierno chino. En el incidente, que ocurrió la tarde del lunes en una mina de la ciudad china de Fuxin, resultaron heridas al menos 22 personas y trece trabajadores continúan atrapados.

El accidente se produjo a 242 metros de profundidad, en la explotación de Sunjiawan, según la Oficina de Supervisión de la Seguridad de Lianoning, que precisó que la explosión ocurrió el lunes a las 15.00 horas (07.00 GMT).

En el momento del accidente se encontraban dentro de los yacimientos 574 personas, de los cuales 336 salieron justo antes de que se produjera la explosión, agregó la fuente.

El gobernador de la provincia de Liaoning, Zhang Wenyue, se trasladó inmediatamente al lugar de los hechos, para dirigir las operaciones de rescate, en las que participan 180 personas.

Los equipos de rescate, enviados de varias ciudades de la provincia, se encuentran ya en la mina de Sunjiawan, cuya producción anual es de 1,5 millones de toneladas.

Terrible siniestralidad

Las minas chinas se encuentran entre las más peligrosas del mundo, con un alto índice de siniestralidad a raíz de las malas condiciones de los pozos y la escasa inversión en medidas de seguridad.

En el país asiático se producen el 80% de las muertes en minas hulleras del mundo, pese a que el país sólo extrae el 35% del carbón en el planeta. Se calcula que unos 7.000 mineros mueren al año en explosiones de gas, inundaciones e incendios dentro de los pozos hulleros.

Hasta noviembre de 2004, unos 5.286 mineros perdieron la vida en el sector del carbón, según la Administración Estatal de Seguridad Laboral, mientras que en 2003 la cifra fue de 7.000.


China Mine Blast Kills 16 in Continuing Grim Saga

Planet Ark (Reuters)

March 16, 2005

BEIJING - Sixteen miners trapped after a coal mine gas explosion in northeast China were found dead on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported, the latest in a series of disasters in the world's deadliest mining industry.

One miner had been rescued and two were still missing, it said.

The accident happened on Tuesday at a mine in Qitaihe, Heilongjiang province.

"The rescue operation is still going on, and the cause of the explosion is under investigation," Xinhua said.

There was no immediate word on the fate of six workers trapped 130 metres (430 ft) underground after a mudflow hit a coal mine in the southern province of Hunan on Sunday.

Accidents in China's vast mining industry killed more than 6,000 miners last year.

At the annual meeting of China's parliament, which closed Monday, the government pledged to spend over $6 billion on improving coal mining safety over the next few years.

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