Progress on coal mine collusion

Progress on coal mine collusion

China’s move to stop collusion between local government officials and coal mine owners, a major cause of the country’s disturbing number of coal mining accidents, has achieved “new progress,” a senior supervisory official said on Friday.

To date, 5,357 officials either in government or in State-owned enterprises have reported investment in coal mines totalling 755 million yuan (US$94.4 million), Vice-Minister of Supervision Chen Changzhi said at a press conference.

Of that money, 709 million yuan (US$88.6 million), or 93.9 per cent, has been withdrawn, Chen said of the year-long drive by six ministerial departments to clear the interests of government officials in collieries.

“Disciplinary or criminal penalties have been meted out to those who invested with money generated through bribery, provided shields for illegal operations in the collieries or refused to withdraw the illicit investment,” he added.

During the first half of this year, localities have dealt with 928 cases, giving administrative and disciplinary punishment to 270 officials and transferring 45 others to judicial departments, Chen said.

For example, Li Guojun, vice-director of the Kaiping Branch Bureau of Public Security in Tangshan, who invested 500,000 yuan (US$62,500) in a local colliery in July 2002, raked in bonuses totalling 600,000 yuan (US$74,500) by July 2005.

Li’s case has been transferred to the judicial department for further investigation of his role in an accident that killed more than 100 people in a nearby colliery on December 7 last year, Chen said.

“The ongoing campaign has played an important role in pushing forward an honest and clean government,” Huang Shengchu, president of the China Coal Information Institute, told China Daily. Moreover, it has helped reduce the number of accidents after hundreds of thousands of smaller coal mines were shut down, he noted.

On Tuesday, Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), reported the number of coal mine accidents in the first eight months of this year had dropped by 13.6 per cent and the resulting death toll fell by 25.5 per cent compared with the same period last year.

But Huang called for a long-term mechanism to uncover officials investing in coal pits and prevent them from doing so.

“Huge investment in innovation, safety management and the improvement of individual protection among miners are also needed in this long-term mechanism,” he said.

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