MAC: Mines and Communities

China Update

Published by MAC on 2006-10-20

China Update

20th October 2006

Forced-labour prisoners die in coal mine accident

Thirteen miners who died in a coal mine accident in southwestern China were forced-labour prisoners, a German news agency and a human rights group reported.

The 13 miners died and seven others were injured after a gas explosion occurred on 6 October at the Zhongpingtong mine of Furong Coal Mine in Yibin city, Sichuan province, according to a report on the website of the State Administration of Work Safety.

An official at the coal mine confirmed that all the workers at the mine were prisoners, reported Deutsche Press-Agentur. "Not only the prisoners, the guards also work underground," the official told the German news agency.

The Zhongpingtong mine was under the supervision of the Chuan Nan (Southern Sichuan) Prison, reported the news agency citing information from the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

The mine employs an estimated 3,000 prisoners, with about 100,000 unpaid prisoners working "dangerous" coal mines across China, the centre said.

Under China's "re-education through labour" concept, most citizens confined to prisons and labour camps are required to work.

The victims' families have still received no compensation after mine managers refused to meet their demand for 200,000 yuan (US$25,000) each, reported the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

The mine had a designed annual capacity of 1.2 million tons, according to the report of the State Administration of Work Safety. State media reported that nine people were killed in a previous accident at the same mine in December 2001.

About 6,000 miners were killed in coal mine accidents last year, according to official figures. But the real figure should be as high as 20,000, according to CLB sources.

Many accidents occur because of out-of-date equipment, illegal mining as well as poor safety systems and supervision. The failure of implementation of coal mine safety regulations in local governments is also the major reason for so many accidents.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur (17 October 2006), China Labour Bulletin 18 October 2006

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