Two coalmine explosions in southwest China leave at least 28 dead

At least nine miners have died in an explosion at a coal mine in Yunnan’s resource-rich Fuyuan county on 16 March, the official media reported today. This follows a gas explosion at another coalmine in a neighbouring county on 12 March, which left 19 miners dead and 15 injured.

Initial reports said the earlier explosion had been caused by the unauthorized reopening of an abandoned mine system. Mine company officials had been detained by local police and several local government officials in charge of mine safety had been dismissed, the Yangtze Daily (长江日报) reported.

The local government in Pan county, on the Guizhou Yunnan border, quickly announced that the families of the 19 victims would each receive a one off compensation payment of 668,000 yuan, inline with new central government directives, which came into effect on 1 January.

The central government implemented a series of new initiatives to improve mine safety last year, including requiring mine managers to accompany miners down the pit for the entirety of each shift.

The measures have had little impact thus far. A total of 2,433 coal miners were killed in accidents last year, according to official figures released last month, just a 7.5 percent drop compared with 2009 when 2,631 miners died.

China’s top safety official, Huang Yi, admitted in an interview with the China Daily that the annual death toll remains high and that a culture of safety has not yet taken root in the industry, with many mines ignoring or paying little attention to safety.

Moreover, many accidents go unreported, with mine owners and local government officials colluding to cover-up mine deaths. After an explosion at a mine in Mianchi county in Henan last December, for example, police found four bodies deliberately hidden in the mine and detained seven people allegedly involved in the cover-up.
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