CHINA / National

China to close another 7,000 coal mines before '08
Updated: 2006-06-15 17:12

China will shut down additional 7,000 small coal mines to bring their total number below 10,000 before 2008, a senior official with the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said on Thursday.

Li Yizhong, the chief of SAWS, said at a conference on coal mine safety that the number of small coal mines has been reduced from 23,000 to 17,000. The number is due to dip below 10,000.

Li told local government officials to confirm the number and names of small coal mines to be shut down before the end of June.

The safety of China's coal mines is far from being resolved, Li said.

Li said that small coal mines subject to gas explosions and flooding should be among the first to close.

Last year, China vowed to tackle the problem of small coal mines in three years as they are considered to be the major sources of coal mine accidents.

As the world's biggest coal producer and consumer, China has been plagued by the problem of frequent coal mine accidents in recent years.

According to SAWS, two-thirds of the country's coal mine deaths occurred in small mines that used backward technology and were poorly managed.

From January to April this year, small coal mines, whose output accounted for only one third of the country's total, reported 763 deaths in 483 accidents.

Last year, 5,938 people were killed in 3,341 coal-mine related accidents throughout China, which prompted the authorities to intensify efforts on cracking down on small and illegally operated coal mines this year.

China closed 5,931 small coal mines in the first four months of 2006. The government aims to shut down all unsafe small coal mines before 2008.