11/11/2011, 00.00
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Yunnan death mine was not supposed to be open

Rescuers are still digging in Qujing where 22 miners are still trapped in an unlicensed mine. So far, 21 miners are known to have been killed. Coal miners continue to die like flies to quench China’s thirst for energy.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – A Chinese mine where 21 workers were killed on Thursday and 22 more remain trapped was being operated illegally. The pit, in the southwestern Yunnan province, lost its licence a year ago.

A huge rescue operation is still underway at the mine, but rescue workers are still concerned about another sudden release of gas like the one that caused the collapse of the mine.

The ground itself is sandy and any intervention might worsen the situation. A day later, no survivors have been found yet.

Relatives of the miners have gathered at the Sizhuang mine in Yunnan province's Qujing city.

This is the second mining accident in less than a week. On 5 November, eight miners died in an explosion at a pit in Qianqiu, Henan, which belongs to the state-owned Henan Yima Coal Mine Group.

Despite apparent efforts by the central government to clean up the mining sector and enforce safety regulations, China’s thirst for energy comes at a hefty price.

Without much oil in relation to its vast territory, the mainland still has to rely heavily on natural gas and coal. However, most mines do not enforce minimum safety standards.

The official death toll in pits has come down from a high of about 7,000 in 2002 to 2,433 last year, which is still six deaths a day; however, many believe that official figures mask the thousands of deaths that are concealed by companies with the complicity of local Communist officials.
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