MAC/20: Mines and Communities

CHINA

Published by MAC on 2007-08-18

CHINA

Flooding-traps 180 coal miners in eastern China

BEIJING, (Reuters)

18th August 2007

More than 180 coal miners were trapped underground in eastern China today after heavy rain caused a river to flood and inundate two separate pits, the latest accident to hit the world's deadliest mining industry.

The official Xinhua news agency said 584 miners were rescued after yesterday's incident at the state-run Huayuan Mining Corp mine, in Shandong province, but attempts to reach another 172 were hampered by continued flooding.

Nine other miners were trapped in the Minggong mine nearby, Xinhua said.

There was only a slim chance the miners could survive, Wang Ziqi, director of the Shandong coal mine safety administration, told Xinhua.

Flooding from heavy rain in Xintai, about 570 km southeast of Beijing, caused a 50-metre breach of a levee of the Wen river.

Water filled much of the 860-metre deep pit at the Huayuan mine.

It was not known at what level most of the miners were trapped, but 14 were 30 meters underground, according to Xinhua.

By midday, about 2,000 Chinese People's Liberation Army troops, armed police and miners had closed a 20-metre section of the breached levee, Xinhua said.

Central government officials asked neighbouring Hubei and Hunan provinces to rush large capacity water pumps to Xintai to assist in the rescue operation.

Most of the trapped miners were from rural areas in Tai'an City and surrounding areas, Wang Junmin, vice governor of Shandong, told Xinhua.

China Net, an online state news service, said the Huayuan mine, with annual production capacity of 750,000 tonnes of coal, was operating in compliance with all legal standards.

China's coal mining industry is the deadliest in the world, with a total of 4,746 people killed in thousands of blasts, floods and other accidents in 2006. About 1,800 coal miners died in 1,066 accidents in the first half of 2007.

Heavy demand for coal to feed China's booming economic growth has led some mine operators to push production beyond safe limits, despite Beijing's efforts to crack down on corruption and lax enforcement of standards.

Earlier this month, 69 coal miners were rescued in the central province of Henan after being trapped underground for three days by flooding caused by heavy rain.

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