Coal mine accidents kill 2,900 this year
(Xinhua/Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2006-09-24 14:15

It has been another deadly year so far for China's coal miners - though not as deadly as 2005.

And for officials who invested in coal mines and colluded with owners to ignore safety violations, the first eight months of 2006 have put hundreds under investigation.

Mine accidents in China killed 2,900 people from January through August, 26 percent fewer than the same period last year, the State Administration of Work Safety reported yesterday.

Wu Yin, who's responsible for coal mine accident prevention, said 1,824 colliery accidents were recorded during the eight-month period, down 14 percent year on year.

But even with the lower numbers, accidents remain a serious safety threat, Wu said.

China will invest 3 billion yuan (US$375 million) worth of state bonds in improving coal mine safety through the end of this year, he said.

The funds will be used to improve ventilation systems at major state-owned coal mines as well as to strengthen safety at small and medium-sized collieries.

Also yesterday, China's Ministry of Supervision reported that 315 government officials and heads of state-owned enterprises have been disciplined this year for owning shares in coal mines.

"Forty-five people are under judicial investigation," said Chen Changzhi, vice minister of supervision. "The ministry has received 1,022 reports of such offenses - 928 have been investigated."

The disciplined officials were from public security departments, prosecutors offices and agricultural agencies, according to the ministry.

Wang Shuhe, vice director of the State Administration on Coal Mine Safety, said China has investigated and prosecuted five coal mine accidents with death tolls above 30 this year.

"In two of the incidents, government officials were found to be colluding with coal mine owners," Wang said, pointing up the urgent need to sever illegal connections between government officials and business people.

"Only when we solve the problem of officials working as protective umbrellas for enterprises can we find a permanent way to prevent coal mine accidents," Wang said.