'A Family's Got to Eat'

A Chinese woman tells of her family's experience in the accident-plagued coal mining industry.
2012-08-31
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Rescue workers search for survivors on Aug. 30, 2012 at the Xiaojiawan coal mine Sichuan province, the site of China's worst mining accident this year.
ImagineChina

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have detained three colliery bosses following a deadly explosion at the privately owned Xiaojiawan mine which killed at least 41 people, the worst mining accident this year, and the latest in a string of fatal incidents in an industry known for an appalling safety record. China is the world's leading consumer of coal, relying on the fossil fuel for 70 percent of its growing energy needs.

One woman from Xiaojiawan, whose two grown sons are both miners, spoke to RFA's Mandarin service about her family's experience of mining:

Q: Are any of your family involved in mining?

A: My eldest and younger sons are both [miners].

Q: Do you worry about their safety?

A: Of course, the entire family of any household that has people working down the mines will be worried about them. [My two sons] work for a proper company ... and the safety standards there are a bit better than in the smaller mines. It's in the smaller mines that you have these frequent gas explosions.

Q: Do they get a good salary?

A: No, they don't get paid much. Only between 1,000-some and 2,000 yuan a month. It depends on how much they produced that month. Between 2,000 and 3,000 yuan a month is the highest you could make. The wages used to be much lower than that, even; just a few hundred yuan. There are frequent small accidents that happen to the miners in the pits as well.

But it's not a question of whether they want to do it or not. A family's got to eat. Do we worry? Yes, we worry. Are we afraid? How can we be? There's nothing to be done about it.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.