Gov't forced to delay unsafe coal mine closures

Updated: 2006-10-13 10:21

China has delayed its plan to close all unsafe small coal mines within two years.

The target was originally set for the end of 2008 but after meeting opposition from local governments, the central government has been forced to postpone the plan until 2010.

China currently has 17,000 small coal mines, which produce one-third of the nation's coal output, and aims to reduce the number to around 10,000 by the end of 2010. The remaining number are all expected to meet national safety standards.

An Yuanjie, an official with the State's Administration of Work Safety confirmed to Xinhua News Agency that problems emerged when the policy was implemented at local levels.

Small coal mines, some of which are notoriously dangerous, are considered the major capital sources for local governments leading to many local authorities protecting unsafe mines for financial gain.

The State's coal mine safety watchdog, allied with 11 ministries, has called for small mines with an annual output of below 30,000 tons to be shut down by the end of this year in order to reduce the number of accidents.

China plans to close 2,652 small mines in 2006, with another 2,209 to be shut down next year.

Unsafe small coal mines account for two-thirds of the total fatalities from mining accidents, government figures show.

The huge drain on natural resources and grave harm to the environment caused by the unsafe small mines have also made the closures more urgent.

The Chinese Government has also launched a series of campaigns aimed at rooting out the business stakes that local officials have in small mines, a major contributing factor to the high number of accidents.