Chinese Government to Shut Down 4,000 Mines by Dec. 31

Vowing to adopt "iron-handed" measures to stem the country's tide of deadly mine accidents, China's top workplace safety official said the Chinese government will shut down at least 4,000 mines that fall short of safety standards by the end of the year, the state-run Xinhua news agency is reporting.

Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration for Work Safety (SAWS), said the crackdown on unsafe mines is just one element in China's plan to improve mine safety.

As part of the plan to boost mine safety, government officials will be dispatched to China's eight major coal-producing provinces to evaluate the safety of mining operations, assist mines that have been asked to stop production for improvements, implement "gas control" measures, crack down on illicit mining activities and bring to justice violators of workplace safety regulations, according to Xinhua.

China's mines, which have been running full-tilt to fuel the country's burgeoning economy, are the world's deadliest. So far this year, 5,491 coal miners have died in mine accidents 206 more than last year according to government statistics quoted by Xinhua news agency.

By comparison, 53 U.S. miners have died on the job this year, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

In the latest mine accident in China, a Dec. 7 gas explosion in the Liuguantun mine in Tangshan, a city in north China's Hebei Province, killed 91 people and left 17 others still missing, according to the most recent statistics quoted by Xinhua.

Under the demand of China's State Council, a special investigation panel has been formed to determine the causes of the Liuguantun accident and punish those responsible. Seven suspects who are being blamed for the accident have been arrested, the news agency reported earlier this week.

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