MAC: Mines and Communities

The Bulls in China

Published by MAC on 2003-09-15

The Bulls in China

September 2003

In the space of a few years, China has become the most rapacious single consumer of coal, gold, aluminium and other metals. One recent calculation is that a fifth of all current metals trade is with China, while an astonishing 80% of new mining depends on demand from this one country alone [see Miningweb, 4 September 2003]. But China is not just a huge market for imports; it is also a vast producer - both from domestic mines and others financed overseas, specifically in the Asia Pacific region. These developments wreak an horrendous toll: China's coal mines are the deadliest single extractive sector on the planet; miners' occupational health and safety (though statistics are weak or suspect) is almost certainly the worst anywhere. While the authorities are pledged to improve conditions and penalise those operating illegally, in practice many pits remain open, trying to produce as much coal as cheaply as possible in a glutted market - a situation for which the government is at least partly responsible. Meanwhile, the authorities continue to persecute workers and their leaders, as well as encourage neo-colonial mining projects in Tibet and Burma.

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