China: more mine disasters, more inspections and indictments
The biggest tailings dam disaster in recent years killed over 270 people last month in China's Shanxi province.
Now, news has emerged that a further 44 people died just a month earlier, when another iron ore dam collapsed in the same province,
Then, just a fortnight ago, an abdoned explosive dump in the Ningxia region, cost the lives of fourteen coal miners, causing injury to many others.
The response of the regime has been to step up mine and waste dam inspections, bring the alleged culprits to book.
China Top Coal Province Punishes More Officials
24th October 2008
BEIJING - Faced with a steady stream of mining disasters, China's top coal producing province has stepped up punishments of local officials amid nation-wide inspections of dangerous tailings dams.
Five officials from Fenyang city in Shanxi were punished after a routine inspection found "wide-scale" illegal mining in an outlying township, the Xinhua news agency said.
Just last week, 16 people were killed and more than 50 injured when a blasting firm hired to blow off a hilltop at a mine belonging to top coal miner Shenhua Group in a different region, Ningxia, failed to note the presence of live explosives it had left there the year before.
The resulting explosion triggered a 2.4 magnitude earthquake.
Faced with thousands of casualties a year and widespread water pollution from unregulated mining, China's State Administration of Work Safety has increased efforts to enforce safety rules.
On Oct 1, it launched a three-month inspection of barriers that hold back mining waste, known as tailings dams, after two dam failures killed hundreds.
Earlier this week, 22 local party officials were detained after an iron ore tailings dam at the Tashan mine in Xiangfen, Shanxi, collapsed and killed more than 270 people in early September, state television said.
That collapse followed a similar failure on Aug 1 of an iron ore tailings dam run by a unit of Taiyuan Iron and Steel Group, in Loufan county, Shanxi province. Unreported by local media at the time, the collapsed dam caused a landslide that killed 44 villagers.
Some local governments have also taken serious measures following fatal accidents, in an effort to limit fatality.
The city of Tongling, in the central province of Anhui, has ordered all coal mines to suspend production in order to conduct safety inspections after a fourth fatal mine accident this week left four miners dead, one short of the annual limit set by the provincial government, according to local media.
(Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Ken Wills)
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE