Poor ventilation and gas management, as well as the lack of on-site supervision and security measures, are to blame for Sunday's fatal gas blast that killed at least 74 people in Shanxi province, a preliminary state investigation showed.
"As a major state-owned colliery with relatively sound work safety foundations, this was an accident that never should have occurred for Tunlan mine of the Shanxi Jiaomei Group," Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety and deputy chief of the State Council's probe team, said at a news conference Tuesday.
A sobbing Shanxi governor Wang Jun apologizes to victims and their families during a press conference, February 24, 2009, for the gas blast at the Tunlan coal mine that left 74 people dead and 114 injured. [China Daily]
"The high death toll and severe losses have brought an extremely sharp lesson," he said.
China Central Television footage showed Shanxi Governor Wang Jun sobbing for nearly a minute during the conference, while apologizing to the relatives of miners killed in the blast.
"The accident has resulted in tremendously bad influence, we've let down the deceased miners and. their families," he said.
The accident occurred at about 2:20 am Sunday, while 436 miners were working underground at the Tunlan Coal Mine of the Shanxi Coking Coal Group in Gujiao City, about 50 km from Taiyuan, the provincial capital.
The Shanxi provincial committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the provincial government have made a formal admission of error to the CPC Central Committee, the State Council and the State Administration of Work Safety, according to Wang.
Wang, former chief of the State Administration of Work Safety, was elected governor of the coal-rich province in January.
His predecessor Meng Xuenong resigned after 277 people died in the collapse of an unlicensed iron ore reservoir last September.
Three top Tunlan executives were sacked on Monday, the same day the Supreme People's Procuratorate dispatched investigators to Gujiao to probe possible breaches of duty by relevant government officials.
With top-notch monitoring equipment, Tunlan has been accident-free for half a decade, a rarity in Shanxi's mining industry.
The Shanxi Coal Social Security Bureau has paid 28 million yuan ($4.1 million) to the Xishan Coal Electricity Group, to which Tunlan is a subsidiary, as compensation, according to Xinhua.
Liu Dezheng, deputy director of the Shanxi Work Safety Commission, said earlier that the compensation for each deceased victim would be "no less than" 200,000 yuan. But many relatives of the men - mostly housewives or retired workers - demand more.
Shanxi is set to start a one-year campaign on work safety of state-owned and collectively owned mines on March 1.