China doubling coal mine shutdowns

China doubling coal mine shutdowns

The northern Chinese province of Shanxi, where 19 miners died in a gas blast on Sunday, will close more coal mines by mid-2008 to raise safety conditions and better protect the environment, Xinhua news agency said.

The government could increase to 1,100 the number of coal mines to be shut by June 2008, up from an originally listed 500, Xinhua said in a late night report seen on Wednesday.

Coal produced in Shanxi, where there are about 3,500 collieries, accounts for a third of the country’s output, it said.

In the year to June, the province closed more than 1,000 coal mines, Xinhua added.

China is struggling to meet booming demand for coal, which fuels about 70 percent of its energy consumption.

In the rush for profits, safety regulations are often ignored, production is pushed beyond limits and dangerous mines that have been shut down are reopened illegally.

Twenty-eight miners are still missing following the weekend accident near Shanxi’s Xinzhou city, Xinhua said.

“Initial investigations suggest that gas accumulated and exploded after exhaust fans stopped working due to a power failure,” the official agency added.

Accidents in China’s coal mines killed 345 miners in October, a toll that was nearly 50 percent higher than the previous month, despite years of government pledges to improve standards in the world’s deadliest mining industry.

Around 3,630 miners died in over 2,000 accidents in the first 10 months of the year, although the grim total represents some improvement on 2005, when the industry claimed nearly 6,000 lives.

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