MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Chinese Coal Mining Update

Published by MAC on 2005-02-07

Chinese Coal Mining Update

Corporate Social Responsiblity Asia Journal - Weekly Vol.1 Week 6
by Stephen Frost

7th February 2005

Coal mining was in the news again last week, with China's biggest coal producing province, Shanxi, announcing new regulations stating that compensation per mining death must be at least 200,000 yuan. This is the highest compensation standard in the coal industry nationally and two mines in the province have already implemented the standard.

Currently,compensation per mining death is usually somewhere between 10 to 50,000 yuan. Shanxi has also stated that mining licenses will be revoked if more than 3 people die in a mine accident (Worker's Daily, 31 January).

According to Xinhua (3 February), Guizhou had 577 coal mine accidents resulting in 894 deaths last year, mainly in small and medium sized mines. The director of the Guizhou Coal Mine Coal Work Safety Monitoring Office stated that most employers and employees have little consciousness on work safety. He identified 7 types of coal mines that have to be monitored:

mines with a rating of "C" or "D" in last year's work safety assessment; mines with serious accidents last year; mines in areas where accidents happen frequently; mines located in dangerous area without adequate fire facilities; mines prone to water disasters; mines using specific mining methods; and mines mentioned by provincial work safe bureaux.

Zhengzhou (Henan) has issued a statement on mine safety for the coming year. Mine managers should visit the mine at least 5 times a month, and superintendents of work safety should visit at least 10 times a month. Females are prohibited from becoming mine superintendents.

Each mine must take 15 yuan/ton as a maintenance fee, and 2.5 yuan/ton for the work safety fund (Zhengzhou Daily, 3 February).

The Worker's Daily (31 January) unearthed a story of workplace brutality in a manufacturing plant in Guizhou, asking in its headline "Where does their audacity come from?" According to the article, managers slapped insubordinate workers' faces, beat them, deducted fines from their wages, and asked them to pay a deposit. They even, said the paper, ignored occupational injuries. So where did managers find the audacity do conduct themselves in such fashion?

The newspaper came up with three reasons: government officials turn a blind eye to illegal behaviour; the Department of Labour fails to inspect factories properly; and workers are unaware of their rights (due to an absence of a trade union to speak for them).

The migrant labour shortage (one of the big labour stories of 2004) resurfaced in the Worker's Daily (31 January). The paper argued that Zhejiang's labour shortage cannot be resolved by simply offering migrant workers a few quick bucks and a slap-up annual dinner.

Workers want more than a wage increase: they want better wages and improved working and living conditions, and for the factory to promote workers' rights.

In a similar article, the Worker's Daily (1 February) argued that migrant workers were not only concerned with receiving wages on time, but also about career prospects, advances in technology, labour protection, occupational health and safety, social security, and their children's education.

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