China embarks upon wave of mine closures following colliery deaths

The Chinese government has announced it will shut hundreds of small mines this year in an effort to boost safety standards following a colliery accident in Sichuan province which has so far left 45 people dead.

The Business Standard reports that China's State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) has said the country will close a further 625 small coal mines this year to ensure adequate safety levels and prevent the occurence of any more deadly mining disasters.

According to the China Daily 45 miners have died as a result of the Panzhihua mining blast in Sichuan province which occurred last Wednesday, with 54 still receiving medical treatment in hospital.

The mine was properly licensed yet it is reported that the mine owner engaged in gross mismanagement and provided authorities with an incorrect figure for the number of miners present at the site after the accident occurred.

SAWS spokesman Huang Yi says the death rate for China's coal industry remains ten times that of the United States, with 35 workers killed for every 100 million tonnes of coal produced.

Government data indicates 1,973 miners died in coal mine accidents in China last year.

Small coal mines comprise 85% of China's 12,000 mines and are responsible for one third of output, yet account for two thirds of all deaths due to inadequate safety measures.

The closures will mainly be in China's south-west where a large number of small mines are located, focusing in particular upon Sichuan, the location of the recent mining disaster, Yunnan and Guizhou.

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Image by Peter Van den Bossche