11/28/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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50 killed in yet another mine blast

The explosion went off in a government mine; more than 138 people are missing. The government put the death toll at 30.

Qitaihe (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Another explosion has gone off in China's coal mines. The blast occurred in a large mine in the north-east province of Heilongjiang and it appears to have killed more than 50 people. A further 138 are currently missing. At the time of the blast – 9.40 local time – there were more than 220 miners in Dongfeng mine, which is situated close to the eastern city of Qitaihe. Forty miners were immediately declared killed, 138 lost, and another 42 were said to have fled. The government press agency Xinhua, put the death toll at 30.

Initial investigations revealed that the accident was caused by an explosion which knocked out all the ventilation systems in the mine. The provincial and national authorities have refused to comment about what happened. Dongfeng mine belongs to the Heilongjiang Longmei Group, a mining conglomerate of four major state-owned coal businesses with a registered capital of 13 billion yuan (around 1.3 billion euros). The mine had all required licenses in order.

Chinese mines are considered to be the most dangerous anywhere in the world: occupational safety in this field has deteriorated rapidly with the increased demand for raw materials from a domestic economy which keeps growing.

China meets two-thirds of its domestic energy demand with coal: at the beginning of the November, the government announced that it intends to increase production of coal from 2.1 billion tons to 2.4 billion tonnes over the next five years.

According to government statistics, in 2004, around 6,000 miners were killed in work accidents in mines; independent data, however, speaks of more than 20,000 deaths. In the first eight months of 2005, Beijing recorded an increase of 8.5% in accidents compared to 2004, but it has not made official statistics about dead and missing miners available.

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