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Province closes all coal mines, permanently
By Qiu Quanlin in Guangzhou and Fu Jing in Beijing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-16 05:59

Coal mining will soon cease to exist as an industry in South China's Guangdong Province.

In the wake of the Daxing Coal Mine flooding in Xingning in early August, which killed 123 miners, the provincial government has already shut down 112 mines because they lacked the required production or work safety licences.

It will soon close the remaining 141 mines, located in Meizhou, Qingyuan and Shaoguan. The shutdowns, government officials said yesterday in Guangzhou, are permanent.

The decision came as the State Administration of Work Safety prepares to send a huge supervision force to make sure more than 7,000 unsafe coal mines nationwide meet national safety standards.

In documents published on Wednesday, Guangdong officials cited safety and environmental concerns as the reason for the shutdown. The mines there had already been ordered to stop production for safety inspections after the accident in Daxing.

The shutdown will better protect people's lives and property, as well as natural resources, sources said. The 253 mines' combined production of about 8 million tons of coal annually makes up a small proportion of the province's total economic performance.

This figure is only a fraction of the national coal production, which was 1.9 billion tons last year.

Guangdong officials said the province will set aside a special fund to compensate mines for being closed and help miners to transfer their jobs, sources said.

It will also try to stabilize the price of coal by buying coal from other provinces and regions.

In Beijing, Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, said up to one-third of China's mines could be shut down permanently after the nationwide inspection.

"We will give them one chance, by suspending production, to root out their unsafe practices they will be closed if they cannot meet the safety standards" by the end of this year, Li said in a statement.

Unsafe mines kill at least 6,000 workers every year in China. In the past, governments had ordered illegal or unsafe coal mines to stop production after fatal accidents. But enforcement was difficult mainly because local officials were working as "protection umbrellas" for the mines and owners.

In an effort to stop this kind of corruption, the State Council ordered all officials and civil servants who have invested in coal mines to cut their ties with the pits by September 22.

Yesterday, the National Development and Reform Commission also said 32.1 billion yuan (US$3.94 billion) earmarked to upgrade safety in the State-owned mines has been distributed.

(China Daily 09/16/2005 page2)

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