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Latest mine accidents kill 16, with 45 missing
By Mu Zi (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-05 05:30

Three more mining accidents over the weekend have claimed 16 lives and left 45 people missing.

Meanwhile, as officials struggled to work out how many men were actually underground when a November 27 coal mine explosion killed at least 169, they revealed that 12,000 small coal mines will be closed down in the next three years.

Explosions ripped through two separate collieries on Friday morning in Guizhou Province in Southwest China. Sixteen miners were killed, 15 were rescued, and three were still missing yesterday.

The third of the latest tragedies unfolded on Friday night when a coal mine in Central China's Henan Province was flooded, leaving 42 miners missing.

Eight pumps were still in operation yesterday to drain around 3,000 cubic metres of water.

The Henan mine's owner is said to have gone into hiding after the flood at the Sigou Coal Mine in Xin'an County, about 150 kilometres west of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan.

The mine is a privately-run one and has no safety licence, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The three accidents came hot on the heels of a massive explosion on November 27 which killed at least 169 in the State-owned Dongfeng Coal Mine in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

Yesterday it was not known exactly how many miners were working underground when the blast occurred. On Saturday officials said 243 miners were at work when coal dust triggered the blast.

By press time last night, 73 miners had been rescued but at least 167 were said to have been killed. Two other workers above the ground also died.

Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety Supervision, said the total number of miners underground when the accident happened was "close to 300."

His remarks leave room for further speculation on the number of miners who were working at the time of the tragedy. An investigation is still under way.

Zhao revealed his figures at a working conference which marked the setting up of a high-profile investigation team, led by him, into the November 27 accident.

"The management of the colliery was extremely confused," Zhao said. "Attendance registration, lamp issuing and security checks on miners were in a complete mess."

Initially, the figure for miners underground at the time of the accident was put at 159. It quickly went up to 221, then climbed to 241, 242, and 243.

Many of China's mine disasters are blamed on managers who ignore safety rules or fail to install required ventilation or fire control equipment, often in collusion with local officials. The issue is further complicated by the country's soaring demand for power to drive its booming economy.

Zhao said China plans to close 4,000 small coal mines both private and State-owned ones annually in the next three years.

"We can at most keep 10,000 or so small coal mines," added Zhao, who also promised to drastically reduce the number of major accidents at coal mines in the next two years.

China has 24,000 small coal mines with annual production output ranging from 10,000 tons to 30,000 tons, accounting for 70 per cent of the country's coal mining ventures.

"Closing small coal mines won't affect the country's demand for coal," said Zhao, adding that China has approved the establishment of 13 large coal production bases, each capable of churning out more than 100 million tons of coal annually.

(China Daily 12/05/2005 page3)

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