Carbon monoxide poisoning is the cause of nine coal miners' deaths on Sunday in Gansu Province, officials have said.
Three others were injured in the accident, which happened at about 5 pm on Sunday in Jingyuan County, located 150 kilometres northeast of Lanzhou.
The injured and the bodies of the dead miners were brought to the ground about 2 hours later.
"Two of the three injured were discharged, and one is still being treated in hospital and has no life threatening problems," said Chen Jingsu, an official from the Gansu Provincial Administration of Work Safety, who was on the scene.
Investigations into the cause of the carbon monoxide poisoning began yesterday.
The mine, which is State-owned, is licensed to produce 30,000 tons of coal a year. All the appropriate safety documents had been obtained so that the mine could operate legally, Chen said.
On the same day in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, 10 people died when a tractor on which they were riding plunged off a bridge around midnight.
Yang Maru, the driver, survived but is in a critical condition in hospital.
Authorities in Yingjiang County, about 800 kilometres southwest of Kunming, said Yang was speeding when he drove his tractor through a bridge railing on the way to a relative's home. The tractor fell more than 16 metres into a ditch, police said.
Work-related accidents fall under the jurisdiction of the State Administration of Work Safety, which announced yesterday that 650 people were killed in 40 "very serious" and "extremely serious" accidents during the first four months this year.
Speaking at a work meeting yesterday, Li Yizhong, the administration's head, said that the country's current work safety situation was steady.
A total of 618 people were killed in 39 very serious accidents (defined as those in which at least 10 people are killed), the administration said.
That is three accidents fewer compared with the same period of 2005, and the number of deaths decreased by nearly 40 per cent over the same period.
The death toll in many high-risk industries declined, notably the coal mining industry. From January to April, 203 people died in 11 mining accidents.
The number of fatalities is about 64 per cent lower than last year, and the 11 accidents are a decline of 35 per cent.
However, Li treated the figures with caution.
"We must keep an eye on any blind optimism and always keep vigilant."
In the first four months this year, the only extremely serious safety accident (one in which at least 30 people are killed) was a blast at a coal mine on April 29, in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, in which 32 miners lost their lives.
Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, said that a nationwide inspection to pin down and resolve the safety loopholes of the country's coal mines will be conducted this month.
Zhao also vowed to push forward this year's mission to shut down illegal small coal mines and regulate the concentration of coal resources.
In reference to the Shaanxi blast, he also said those held responsible in the mining accidents would be severely punished.
(China Daily 05/09/2006 page2)