Accidents in China''s notoriously dangerous coal mines killed 2,730 miners in the first half of 2000, state media reported last week as the government renewed calls to improve safety.
The death toll, while still high, is 8 percent lower than the casualty count from the first half of 1999, the Beijing Morning Post reported.
Zhang Baoming, a coal industry official, deplored the unsafe conditions at the mines.
Although deaths declined overall, he noted that accidents in small mines killed 126 miners, double last year''s figure, the reports said.
Zhang, speaking at a national conference on coal mine safety Tuesday, promised a more thorough inspection of all coal mines.
He also said he would shut down those that cannot meet safety standards, the newspaper reported.
Rapid development and lax enforcement rules, often by poorly-funded local governments, have helped make Chinese mines and other work sites unsafe.
Fires and explosions are reported almost weekly.
A fire in a mine in western Gansu province killed 17 workers last Sunday, the Yangcheng Evening News reported in its Tuesday editions.
The brief report said a truck hauling ore from the mine caught fire, causing the deaths.
by Virginia Sutcliffe