China to close 4,000 unsafe mines

SOME 4,000 coal mines deemed to have unsafe working conditions will be shut down by the end of the year by the Chinese government, an act being seen as the latest in a ongoing conflict between government officials and owners.
China to close 4,000 unsafe mines China to close 4,000 unsafe mines China to close 4,000 unsafe mines China to close 4,000 unsafe mines China to close 4,000 unsafe mines


Donna Schmidt

Deputy director of the administration for work safety Wang Xianzheng said at a recently coal science meeting that he aims to “solve the small coal mine related problems within three years,” according to a Chinese media outlet.

There are currently 23,000 registered and legal small coal mines in the country, which will drop to 19,000 after the closures, a number that could shrink even more with mergers and organisational regrouping, according to People’s Daily online.

The axed mines have a total production of 120 million tons, or an average of 30,000t each. By 2010, China’s annual coal consumption could reach 2.2Bt.

During a recent visit to an operation in Chongqing, State Administration of Coal Mine Safety head Zhao Tiechui said 70% of the facilities inspected failed.

“The curbing of accidents and shutting down of unlicensed collieries are two tough jobs before the work safety departments right now,” he told People’s Daily Online.

Wang reported there was about 12,148 mines that have been ordered to halt production due to insufficient safe production license applications so far this year. It is a statistic that may or may not affect long-term coal availability – with a 2004 output of 1.956Bt, only 1.2Bt of that were produced by guaranteed safe mines. By 2010, that number may reach 1.87Bt.

According to China Daily, the country has developed what it now refers to as the “four tumours” of the industry: poor work safety, collusion between officials and colliery owners, over-exploitation of resources and severe pollution.

“The root cause of coal mine accidents is corruption and collaboration between officials and coal mine owners,” said state administration of work safety minister Li Yizhong.

Regardless of the cause, the numbers speak for themselves. Chinese officials said from January to September 2005, 4,228 workers lost their lives in 2,337 mining accidents. In addition, 43 major accidents – those taking 10 or more lives at one time – were reported through early October.