China is working hard on ways to improve coal mine safety and
worker's rights as the ever rampant coal mine accidents still
threaten the safety and health of China's miners. With recent
agreements signed between China and the United States, China is
expected to benefit from the cooperation with the world's leading
country with the best mine safety record.
More than six thousand coal miners lost their lives in hundreds
of mine accidents in China last year. The situation is still grim
as the country waits for proper solutions to ensure a more
efficient and safe way of exploiting coal, the primary energy
source in China.
The State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) indicates in
2003, coal mine accidents took up nearly 40 percent of total on job
accidents and the death toll accounted for more than 40 percent
despite a series of control measures which has helped decrease the
number of miners' deaths compared with the previous year.
After touring some coal mines in North China, a high ranking
official from the US Department of Labor, who has been in China
with the US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao during her recent visit,
understands the difficulties China faces.
"One of the major difficulties is the number of small mining
operations in China. Many of those are not registered and they
present particular problems because they don't implement proper
safety and health procedures. Also the issues of adequate
supervision and inspection of coal mines was an issue that we
discussed at length, because of the layers of government, which
represents some difficulties on which we will be
cooperating with our counterparts in the future. In the United
States, what also represents difficulties is the amount of
methane and gas presenting in some coal mines which presents
problems without adequate ventilation."
Through a four million dollar grant, the US Department of Labor
has already started collaborating with China in a mine safety
project. And the recent trip by US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao
to China has achieved the signing of several agreements between
China and the United States in the areas of labor, employment
rights and workplace safety. These agreements are believed to help
China improve working conditions, raise standards of living for
Chinese workers and develop mine rescue techniques in a market
"I think it is important to understand that the SAWS is very
interested in understanding how to improve the safety in coal
mines. And part of our purpose here is to help in that
The official says the US's principal expertise in guaranteeing
coal mine safety is the method of safety inspection. And as the
first step in implementing the agreements, China is to send more
than a dozen people to the United States this October to receive
training on mine safety inspection.
(CRI July 4, 2004)