China probes mine deaths cover-up in top steel province

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Authorities in China’s top steelmaking province of Hebei on Wednesday launched an investigation after learning of six deaths at an iron ore mine in Wuan last month that had not been reported by the company involved.

The Wuan city government said it had seen reports on the internet on Tuesday evening about a suspected cover-up of three deaths at the mine. It said preliminary checks showed the information to be true but put the number of deaths at double that reported.

The company involved is Tuanchengdong Mining Co, part of Wuan Metallurgical Mining Co, said the government of Wuan, a city in southwestern Hebei under the administration of the nearby steel hub of Handan.

A person named only as “Wu” was showing others around the mine underground on Feb. 24 when six people fell down a shaft on the way back up and died, it added in a statement.

“After the accident, the company failed to report it to the government and relevant departments,” the statement said, noting production at the 100,000 tonnes per year mine was discontinued at the end of 2018 but its licences were still valid.

Tuanchengdong Mining Co and its parent did not immediately answer calls seeking comment.

China’s mines are among the world’s deadliest. The country recorded 573 mine-related deaths in 2020, according to the National Mine Safety Administration.

In January, two local officials were sacked and others disciplined after an explosion at a gold mine in Shandong was not reported to the emergency services until 30 hours after it happened. Eleven of 22 trapped miners were miraculously pulled out alive two weeks later.

The Wuan government said relevant personnel of the company involved in the iron ore mine deaths had been placed under control and a thorough investigation led by the Handan authorities is being carried out.

(By Min Zhang and Tom Daly; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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