10/05/2005, 00.00
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Three fatal incidents in China's mines within 2 days

Beijng (AsiaNews/Agencies) –  More than 49 miners have been killed in three separate incidents in the past two days, underscoring the reality that Chinese mines are the most dangerous in the world.

A blast in Yatuer mine in Baicheng country in Xinjiang, a northern province in China, killed five miners yesterday. According to Xinhua, 25 miners were at work when the blast occurred and 11 managed to escape. Five were killed and there is no news about the rest. The mine had all its government permits in order and had a productive capacity of 30,000 tonnes of coal per year.

On the evening of the same day, 10 miners were killed and at least 18 are missing due to sudden flooding in Longtan mine in Guang'an in the south-west Sichuan province. First aid teams said they were confident they would be able to find the missing miners.

On Monday 3 October, 34 men were killed and 19 seriously injured in a gas explosion in a mine in the central-eastern province of Henan. The mine was owned by the Henan Hebi Coal company. The National Bureau of Production Safety Supervision and Administration said problems existed in gas ventilation and the company was working with outdated equipment. The same office ordered the company, which runs eight of the largest mines in the country producing more than seven million tonnes per year, to close its mines and review its entire prevention system.

Premier Wen Jiabao has intervened publicly in the matter, ordering the mining sector to "increase security". After Wen's demand, all work safety inspectors in Henan broke off their National Day holidays to visit mines in the province.

According to new regulations issued in July, accidents resulting in less than 30 deaths are to be classified as "medium-sized" and need not be reported to Beijing. Between July and August the government shut down around 7,000 coal mines which did not meet minimum safety requirements and ordered members of the Communist Party to give up their shares and to quit the coal industry.

Some analysts say this move has only served to make matters worse because it forces miners recruited to work in authorised mines to work harder, at the cost of security, to meet China's energy demands, 70% of which are fuelled by coal.

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