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China earmarks 3b yuan to improve coal mine safety
Updated: 2005-03-05 10:14

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in Beijing Saturday, March 5 that the government will spend this year 3 billion yuan (361 million US dollars) on "safety technologies upgrading" at state-owned coal mines to "truly make coal mining safer".

"We must have a strong sense of responsibility to the people and truly make coal mining safer," said Wen while reporting his government's work in the past year to the country's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), which convened its annual full session in Beijing Saturday morning.

Acknowledging that "many catastrophic accidents" causing "heavyloss of life and property" had occurred in China since last year, the premier said, "We must draw on the bitter lesson they taught us and adopt still more effective measures to improve our work to ensure production safety."

The premier linked the production safety issue with the maintenance of social stability and the building of a "harmonious society" in China, something the country's top leaders are most concerned about.

"At present, we should give top priority to coal mining safety," Wen stressed.

Measures that need to be taken include "improving the systems and mechanisms for ensuring coal mining safety", "investing more in coal mining safety facilities" and "improving coal mining safety technology", said Wen, adding that "local governments and coal mines must also invest more in coal mining safety".

Statistics from the State General Administration of Work Safetyshowed that throughout 2004 a total of 6,027 people were killed in3,639 coal mine accidents.

China's state-owned coal mines, which used to have a comparatively better safety record than private mines, have been hit by a string of disasters since the latter half of last year. Three major gas explosions at the Daping Mine of central China's Henan Province, Chen Jiashan Mine of northwest China's Shaanxi Province and Sun Jiawan Mine of northeast China's Liaoning Province, which took place in October and November of last year and in February this year respectively, claimed 148, 166 and 214 lives respectively.

In recent years, a severe energy strain caused by China's rapideconomic growth has prompted coal mines across the country to produce beyond their actual mining capacity, largely neglecting the miners' safety requirements.

Meanwhile, industry insiders revealed that the safety facilities in many mines were also seriously outdated and worn-out.It will cost at least 50 billion yuan (6 billion dollars) to make a comprehensive upgrading of safety facilities in the state-owned mines alone, they said.

A Beijing-based mining safety expert told Xinhua Saturday that he believes the 3-billion-yuan state funds will mainly be used to resolve the problem of coal bed gas, as gas explosion has turned out to be the "top killer" in Chinese coal mines.

Apart from renovating and upgrading gas alarm systems and improving underground ventilation facilities at coal mines, the money might also be spent on the research to use coal bed gas as anew energy, said the expert.

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