HOHHOT - Authorities in northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Wednesday began an overhaul of its coal industry in the wake of the death of a herder who was dragged to death by a coal truck.
The accident has led to heightened concerns over industry practices in the resource-rich region's mining sector.
The regional coal mine industry bureau ordered local work safety watchdogs to strengthen supervision of the coal mines to ensure safe production practices, protection of the environment, and attention to the welfare of local residents. The overhaul will last one month.
Enterprises found to operate without a license, pollute the environment, have hidden safety risks, and seriously harass local residents will be suspended from operation for overhaul, said Wang Junfeng, deputy head of the regional coal mine industry bureau.
New mines that fail to get the consent of local environmental protection authorities cannot be allowed to operate, he added.
Bagatur, chairman of the regional government of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, told reporters earlier that the authorities will leave no stone unturned in its probe into mines that damage the environment or harm the interests of local residents.
"The issue cannot be ignored," Bagatur said. "We will conduct a thorough probe, and no individual or enterprise shall be spared if violations are found."
The regional mining sector overhaul comes as a local court is preparing to try four people in the death of the Mongol herder named Mergen, who protested against the noise and dust created by the stream of coal trucks day and night near his village in West Ujimqin Banner (County), Xilingol League.
Mergen and 20 others attempted to block the path of a coal truck and argued with the drivers on May 10. According to police, the truck dragged Mergen for 145 meters and subsequently killed him.
The truck driver, Li Lindong, along with Lu Xiangdong, who was sitting in the co-driver seat, have been charged with intentional homicide. Two others were charged with obstructing justice.
The suspects will stand trial in the Intermediate People's Court of Xilingol League. The judge has declared it will be a public trial.
Wang said the region-wide industry overhaul was prompted by the coal truck incident in Xilingol.
A similar mining overhaul in Xilingol that commenced May 20 has shut down four mining companies and suspended 34 others for operational reasons such as environmental damage, harassment of local residents and safety issues.
The Jilingol coal mine in West Ujimqin Banner, the mine involved in the herder's death, was also shut down, initial probe says.
The Xilingol area has a stretch of 180,000 square kilometers of grasslands and holds 144.8 billion tonnes of coal, or 15 percent of the country's coal reserves. Mining has brought prosperity to the region but also raised serious concern about ecological damage.
Local officials have pledged that they will not sacrifice the grasslands for industry development.
"We want only water-saving and environmental friendly projects," said Xin Wenyin, deputy head of the Xilingol League. "We have found some illegal exploitation of coal mines and are on track to shut them down in this overhaul."