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'Sheer ignorance' as China toll reaches 44

AN OFFICIAL investigation into China's Xiaojiawan coal mine disaster blamed "chaotic management" and "sheer ignorance" of safety protocol as the death toll climbed to 44 yesterday.

Justin Niessner
'Sheer ignorance' as China toll reaches 44

Only two miners of the 154 underground during Wednesday’s deadly gas blast remain unaccounted for.

An initial probe into the tragedy by the State Administration of Work Safety has reportedly found the mine’s owner Zhengjin Industry and Trade to be mainly responsible for the accident.

According to official state media outlet Xinhua, Xiaojiawan had been producing beyond its capacity with more men underground than allowed.

Safety supervision mismanagement included continued operation even after high density gas was detected.

Police have detained the owners of the mine and SAWS said those who were found responsible would receive due punishment.

Xiaojiawan is located in Sichuan province, 750km southwest of the capital of Chengdu.

The Sichuan government has initiated a province-wide safety check on all coal mines as pressure mounts to crack down on the country’s notoriously dangerous small mines.

A government initiative to reduce hazardous mines has resulted in the closure of more than 9000 small coal mines since 2006.

A plan to close another 625 small coal mines this year was announced in May.

Small coal mines, which account for 85% of China’s 12,000 mines, cause two-thirds of all deaths despite producing only one-third of coal output.

Xinhua reported that 35 workers are killed in Chinese coal mines for every 100 million tonnes of coal output in the country – about 10 times the US death rate.

Official data counted 1973 coal mine-related deaths in China last year alone.

In April, SAWS demanded coal miners pay an increased safety investment for each ton of coal produced.

Funds from the required safety payments will go toward improving facilities, education, underground shelters and monitoring equipment for major sources of danger.

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