China Reopens Coal Mines After Fatal Accidents


2003-11-26
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Safety checks accelerated by serious coal shortage

China has announced it will reopen nearly 2,000 coal-mines ordered shut after a series of fatal accidents, as power companies report severe coal shortages, RFA reports.

The news comes just two weeks after a gas explosion at a mine in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi killed 49 people and injured two others.

Official media reported that 1,838 coal mines closed earlier this year for safety checks in northern Shanxi province, had been rushed through safety inspections, and were now preparing to reopen.

Workers at the state-run Jianxin Coal Mine, affiliated to the Fengcheng Municipal Mining Bureau, told RFA at the time that the accident was the result of an obsession with increased production, which resulted in a failure to observe safety standards.

The price of coal has risen dramatically since September because of serious coal shortages at many power stations, steel works, and cokeries in Shanxi.

Coal accounted for 87 percent of all fuel consumed in the power sector in 2000, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency.

The recent shortages have also forced the country to turn to North Korea to address its energy shortfall. North Korea exported 19.88 million kilowatt hours of electricity via China's northeastern border city of Dandong in the first 10 months of the year, a rise of 143 percent over the previous year.

Safety standards in China's mines are among the lowest in the world, with a total of 4,620 deaths reported in the first nine months of this year alone, the equivalent of 17 deaths a day. Most of these deaths occurred in coal pits.

The worst accidents happen in smaller, privately run mines that pay little attention to safety. Last year, more than 5,000 Chinese workers were killed in explosions, floods, cave-ins, and other accidents.

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