China's Coal Mines Live Up to Deadly Reputation

A new explosion of mine accidents in China claim the lives of at least 51 miners since last week.

Dozens of families are grieving in China this month, as four separate accidents within a few days of each other claimed the lives of at least 51 coal miners.

Fourteen workers died when a gas explosion ripped through a coal mine in the northern province of Shanxi.

An explosion at the Yuxian mine in the same province has trapped another 14 miners on Nov. 17. That mine had been targeted by government inspectors and was ordered closed before the explosion occurred. The government shut down 11,882 small mines for safety reasons. Authorities wanted the Yuxian mine closed because of "small production and flawed safety standards," the China Daily said.

Mine operators claimed that the mine was shut down in June, and the miners were on site to perform repairs. Some miners contested that account, saying they were mining when the explosion occurred.

The China Youth Daily newspaper reports 12 workers were trapped when a state-run coal mine in the province of Shandong flooded over the weekend. Their fate is not known. Approximately 2,000 miners are employed at the mine.

Last week, 37 workers in two coal mines in China''s northern province of Shanxi were killed in separate explosions. China Daily reported that four miners were killed and four were missing following an explosion at a mine in Yuxian County on Nov. 14.

China''s official news agency, Xinhua, reported that 33 workers were killed on Nov. 15 when an explosion ripped through a mine in Jiaocheng County. Investigators at that mine say the explosion might have been triggered by poor ventilation.

China has the world''s worst coal mining safety record. More than 5,300 deaths were attributed to mining accidents last year. Until these recent accidents, the death rate was down by over 7 percent this year. The Committee for Safety in Production under the State Council, China''s cabinet, said 2,378 coal mine accidents were reported during the first 10 months of the year. There are approximately 23,000 small coal mines in China, down from some 82,000 in 1997, when the government began to crack down on unsafe mine operations.

by Sandy Smith

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