Mine safety

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-10-15 08:12
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Congratulations to the 33 Chilean miners. Their escape from death is nothing short of a miracle.

Congratulations also to their rescuers. From planning to operation, the entire resuce process was flawless and strikingly efficient.

The end of a tragic accident in a mine pit 700 meters underground that was way ahead of expected rescue schedules is the outcome of hope, love, science, teamwork, willpower and sophisticated organization.

We share the joy over the perfect rescue operation on the other side of the Pacific.

Besides congratulating the rescue, many are also asking the question: What would it be like if the same had occurred in one of our mine pits?

We are really not sure.

Not that we doubt our rescuers' and scientists' professional capabilities, our government's efficiency in organizing emergency responses, or our miners' willpower.

We have actually witnessed dozens being lifted from collapsed mine pits after being trapped for long hours. Both our authorities and professional relief workers have shown impressive competence lately in handling similar disasters.

However, as many have observed, there are at least two obvious barriers that may prevent a similar accident from getting a happy ending: There is no such thing as an emergency shelter in most, if not all, of our mine pits; and safety awareness remains surprisingly weak in our miners and mine owners. The 33 Chilean miners might not have survived without either of these two factors.

We can only wish that the media's calls for emergency shelters in our mine pits, if not proper safety awareness, do not fall on deaf ears.

Promoting safety awareness and investing more in safety guarantee devices may be easier in the State sector. But over the years, privately owned mining sites have been main venues of fatal mining accidents.

Private mine owners are also notorious for their disregard of workplace safety and government orders to upgrade safety standards.

Given the private sector's past record of negligence, there must be forceful government intervention to make sure it takes the matter seriously.

To be fair to the higher authorities, they have issued countless orders for workplace safety guarantees. In a desperate recent move to make sure that those in leadership positions make safety a top priority, the authorities told leading officials in mining enterprises to go down the pits regularly with miners.

We need proof that those responsible are truly taking action.

Profit-minded mine operators will not act appropriately until they know they can no longer expect the government to treat them with kid gloves.

(China Daily 10/15/2010 page8)