Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) The list of deadly accidents in Chinese mines is getting longer and longer. The government, which finds itself increasingly powerless vis-à-vis the situation, has sent out a directive ordering company executives to go underground and stay with the miners.
The worst of the latest accidents occurred last night at the Kangli Gypsum Mine in Shangwang village, Xingtai County (Hebei Province). Cave-ins in this mine triggered the collapses of two adjacent gypsum mines, trapping 28 miners. So far 19 men have bee rescued but the rush is on to save those still trapped under tonnes of mud and stones.
In announcing the preliminary death toll, the Work Safety Administration said that 18 people were dead but expected that number to rise.
In Taiyuan (Shanxi), an explosion in a coal mine yesterday killed 15 miners and left one missing. In Lengshui (Hunan), six miners were trapped after a cave-in; rescue operations are still underway.
China's rapid economic development has led many companies to mine as much coal as possible to fuel the boom but with little regard for safety.
For this reason on August 22, China's State Council ordered public officials to give up their personal stakes in mining companies or quit their jobs, to avoid being involved in a conflict of interests. Until recently some 4,600 officials had stakes involved in coal mines.
Given local officials' direct involvement in mining and the level of corruption, official sources remain doubtful about the data they receive from local officials. Links between mining companies and local officials have led to unsafe mines being opened or staying open and to the non enforcement of safety regulations.
The Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has decided to send its own teams to carry out investigations.
In the latest attempt to curb the country's rampant mine accidents, Beijing has ordered that at least one member of a coal mine's management team descend into the shafts with the workers.
The order was part of a detailed circular issued by the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration of Work Safety Supervision.
China's mines are considered the most dangerous in the world. Official data indicate that over 6,000 miners died in accidents last year. Independent data put that figure at at least 20,000.
In the first nine months of this year, there were officially 4,228 deaths from mining accidents.