MAC: 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)

Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info