BEIJING -- China saw the fatalities of coal mine accidents per million tons of coal produced in 2006 drop by 60 percent from that of 2001, according to the country's top work safety watchdog.
About 5.07 people were killed on average for every million tons of coal mined in 2001, and the figure was reduced to 2.04 in 2006, said Wang Xianzheng, deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety.
China reported a total coal output of more than 2.3 billion tons last year, with 4,746 people killed in mine accidents, a 20.1-percent drop from the previous year. In 2001, there were a total of 2,384 coal mine accidents which killed 6,078 people.
In recent years, mining security has remained one of the top concerns of the Chinese government, which has imposed stricter supervision and tougher penalties to restrain illegal operations.
Earlier reports said that a total of 1,066 coal mine accidents took place in the first half of this year, causing 1,792 deaths. The figures were respectively 18.5 percent and 14.3 percent lower than those in the same period of last year.
"The coal mine accidents have kept decreasing since 2002," said Wang, who is confident to see better security conditions.
Over the last two years, China has closed more than 9,000 small mines and will shut another 1,000 others by the end of 2007.
About 9 billion yuan (US$1.18 billion) has been poured into the mining industry to improve safety, including updating technologies for the better control of methane gas that has triggered most deadly explosions in small mines.
But officials also admitted on different occasions that China still faces a long-term struggle to meet international standards and the improvements are made in a progressive way.
Earlier reports said that the rate of fatalities per million tons of coal mined in 2005 in China was 70 times worse than the United States and seven times higher than in Russia and India.