Chinese Province orders Closure of Small Mines

July 11, 2002
Pending verification that safety measures are being followed, the government of China's Heilongjiang province has ordered the shut down of all small coal mines. The province was the site of two serious mining accidents in the past month.

A June 20 gas explosion in the city of Jixi killed 115 miners, while another gas explosion earlier this week killed all 44 workers in the mine.

China's mining industry is arguably the most dangerous in the world. Nearly 3,500 workers have been killed this year. Seven miners trapped in a flooded coal mine in another Chinese province, Jilin, were found dead this week.

The order from the Heilongjiang provincial government said all mines should stay closed until safety measures meet "stringent standards." Xinhua News Agency reported the government was calling for "timely and honest reporting of serious accidents and matters that threaten social stability."

A government official said all mines must close, even those that apparently meet safety standards, until a government inspection clears them to reopen.

If any more accidents occur, the operating licenses for the mines will be revoked and their owners punished. Mining officials will be held responsible for any further accidents and any delays in reporting them, said the official.

With the government threatening to imprison and fine mine owners and operators of facilities where fatalities occur, many owners have refused to report accidents, injuries and fatalities and even go so far as to hide bodies, making it likely the high numbers reported to the government are too low.

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