MAC: Mines and Communities

The price miners continue to pay - in Zambia, China and Burma

Published by MAC on 2005-07-13

The price miners continue to pay - in Zambia, China and Burma

As Africa's Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES) annual conference was underway earlier this month in Zambia, China's leading news agency boasted of vigorous new investment in the central African state.

What wasn't highlighted is that the Chinese-owned explosives plant at the Chambesi mine (operated by the British company NFC Mining) recently blew up, killing 52 workers. Despite this, Chinese investors are reported to be urging the Zambian government to overcome "problems" caused by "restrictive labour laws" (for which read: workers' protection) and the right to strike.

A few days later, another massive explosion struck a mine in China, causing the deaths of at least 83 workers.

And in Burma - where Chinese mining investment has been critical to propping up the dicatorship - numerous deaths were reported at the same time when workings collapsed at a gem mine jointly run by the military.

China mine death toll rises to 83

13th July 2005

AFX News

Beijing - The death toll from a gas explosion Monday in a coal mine in Fukang city, Xinjiang region, northwestern China climbed to 83, state media said today, as only four miners were found alive.

China's government work safety agency said over-production, the lack of a work safety licence and lax management were to blame for the tragedy, which was the worst in Xinjiang's history.

Xinhua reported the mine had a maximum production capacity of 90,000 tons a year but reportedly turned out 180,000 tons of coal in the first half of this year alone.

'The over-production had led to an extremely high gas density in the shaft and the management failed to take effective measures to prevent casualties, said Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration for Work Safety.

China's strong demand for coal to fuel industries such as coal-fired power plants, steel and cement has encouraged many profit-driven mines to operate illegally even after being ordered to shut down.

Official figures show more than 6,000 miners died in mine accidents in China last year, although independent estimates say the real figure could be as high as 20,000.

Ascienden a 83 las víctimas mortales en accidente minero en China

julio 13, 2005

El accidente minero, el peor en la historia de esa región china, se produjo en la madrugada del lunes cuando 87 mineros trabajaban a unos 200 metros de profundidad en el pozo hullero Shenlong, en la ciudad de Fukang. (EFE)

PEKÍN - El número de muertos a causa de una explosión en una mina de la región autónoma china de Xinjiang (noroeste) se ha elevado a 83, tras recuperarse hoy otros dos cadáveres, informó la agencia estatal Xinhua.

El accidente minero, el peor en la historia de esa región china, se produjo en la madrugada del lunes cuando 87 mineros trabajaban a unos 200 metros de profundidad en el pozo hullero Shenlong, en la ciudad de Fukang.

Una fuerte explosión de gas grisú sacudió la galería y sólo cuatro mineros consiguieron salir con vida, según las autoridades regionales.

Las autoridades atribuyeron el accidente a las deficiencias en las medidas de seguridad y calificaron el suceso de "una grave falta de responsabilidad" por parte de los dueños de la mina.

El director de la Administración Estatal de Seguridad en el Trabajo, Li Yizhong, aseguró que la sobreproducción en la mina provocó que ésta concentrara una extrema densidad de gas, ante la que los directivos no tomaron ninguna medida.

Li también criticó a los dueños por enviar a trabajar de forma simultánea a un número excesivo de trabajadores, con el objetivo de incrementar la producción.

Las minas chinas son las más peligrosas del mundo, con 8.275 fallecidos en 2004 según cifras oficiales, de los que más de 6.000 perdieron la vida en los pozos de carbón, principal fuente energética del país.

Fuentes independientes calculan que hasta 20.000 mineros fallecen al año en China, donde, a pesar de las medidas adoptadas y publicitadas por el Gobierno, sigue habiendo accidentes mortales en sus yacimientos casi a diario.

El pasado mes de febrero, más de 200 mineros murieron en la provincia nororiental china de Liaoning, en el accidente más grave sufrido por el sector en China en las últimas seis décadas.

Eight Die as Gem Mine Collapses

By Associated Press/Rangoon

July 12, 2005

At least eight miners were killed and a dozen more—all women— remained missing Tuesday after a gem mine collapsed in northeastern Burma, the government said.

Three gem pits at the mine in Mongshu collapsed on July 3, trapping miners and destroying several buildings, gem industry sources said. Northern Burma is a world-famous gem-producing region, most notably for rubies.

"Eight bodies have been recovered and about a dozen people are missing while several were injured," Deputy Mines Minister Myint Thein said.

A ministry official, citing a report from a search team, said four men and four women had died, while seven others, including one woman, were injured. Twelve women were missing, the official said.

Gem industry sources, however, said many more people may have died. "We believe that the casualty figure is much higher," said a gem merchant who operates a mine in Mongshu. "Mine pits are some 300 to 400 feet (90 to 120 meters) deep, and it is dangerous as well as difficult to dig too deep."

The merchant, like others involved in the industry, spoke on condition of anonymity because the military government discourages publicity about disasters.

Mining industry sources said the area has been cordoned off by local authorities since last week while search and rescue efforts continue.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on July 5 that torrential rains caused a landslide in the Mongshu gem area, killing people and destroying buildings. The report provided no further details.

Mongshu is a gem-rich town in a remote area of Burma 's Shan State , 600 kilometers (380 miles) northeast of Rangoon . Both local miners and joint ventures in which the military-run Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. is a partner dig for rubies there.

Gems are currently one of the main sources of income for the military-ruled country.

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