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Urgent need of laid-off miners
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-14 06:25

A top unionist has urged the government to immediately set up a social security network and create new jobs for workers in China's 30 mining cities where resources are nearly exhausted.

Su Liqing, vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions said it is an urgent matter because many workers will become jobless if the government does not respond quickly.

He said about 30 of China's 118 major mining cities, such as Fuxin in Liaoning and Jiaozuo in Henan, need help.

Meanwhile, 400 out of China's total of 8,000-odd mines have been excavated and nearly two-thirds of them have just half their resources remaining.

Currently, a total of 65 million workers need to be either transferred to other sectors or brought under the umbrella of social security.

"It's an urgent and demanding task and the government needs to design package solutions," said Su, a member of the CPPCC National Committee.

R.C. Lao, resident project manager of the Canada-China Project for Cleaner Production suggested that social security should cover every miner, including farmers-turned-workers.

Lao said if those farmers-turned-miners are brought into the social security network now, the government will not need to worry about them when the mines are totally exhausted in 20 or 30 years.

But the government is currently just focussing on setting up a social security network for retired miners.

Lao also suggested using old and abandoned mines for depositing municipal and industrial waste.

"For such an action, however, a detailed environmental impact and risk assessment should be conducted," said Lao, a renowned Chinese-Canadian environmental expert. "For example, we should see if it contaminates ground water sources."

As there is a shortage of land available for dumping sites, the measure should be carefully considered by major cities, Lao suggested.

Officials said the central and local governments have long said that restructuring mining cities and creating new jobs for laid-off miners are their priorities.

Since 2001, the State Council has been running a number of pilot schemes in mining cities where reserves are close to exhaustion.

Fuxin in Liaoning Province - a city with a 100-year mining history - was one of the places where the government tried to transform the area into the modern agricultural hub of the region.

Tens of thousands of coal miners have been finding new means of living in the agricultural sector as most of the city's mines have closed.

These closures affected nearly 400,000 coal miners and their families, accounting for 50 per cent of the city's population.

Fuxin Mayor Yao Zhiping said the government will spare no effort in nurturing new industries to hire the large number of laid-off workers.

(China Daily 03/14/2005 page2)

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