Probe shows colliery workmen ignored laws
A combination of careless maintenance, overcrowding and leaking gas caused an explosion which killed more than 210 miners in one of China's worst mine disasters, an investigation has concluded.
At the end of a three-month probe, the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said sparks from an electric cable ignited gas which had built up in a mine in Northeast China's Liaoning Province on February 14.
Workmen ignored strict safety rules and failed to turn off the power during cable maintenance work.
The investigators found the malpractice violated workplace safety regulations and led to the worst mine blast in recent history.
"A series of loopholes were found on the production, safety and management of electric equipment in the coal mine," said Wang Xianzheng, deputy director of SAWS, the main watchdog for workplace safety in China.
The vice-governor of Liaoning Province was among 33 officials charged with being responsible for the tragedy and given judicial or executive punishments.
"It is the first time that a leading group was set up to deal with those responsible," said Chen Changzhi, vice-minister of supervision.
Lured by economic interests, the owners of the coal mine surpassed its production limitation, Wang said. "The digging of two small tunnels between two major ventilation shafts in the pit aggravated the disaster," he said. An underground gas deposit was disturbed and leaked into the main shaft.
"The electrician on duty broke the safety regulations to repair electric equipment when the power is not shut down," said Wang, adding investigators had found the gas monitor system was not working properly prior to the disaster.
"There were 574 miners working disorderly underground when the accident took place," he said. "The number surpassed greatly the normal requirement, especially for a coal mine whose monthly production was only 150,000 tons."
The official also said the investigation of another fatal blast in Shaanxi Province is still on-going because about 350,000 cubic metres of underground water used to fight the fire had to be pumped out. The investigation will last until Mid-July.
(China Daily 05/13/2005 page2)