Coal-rich province focuses on mine safety

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The safety of coal miners has improved significantly and more efforts will be made in the coal-rich province of Shanxi to ensure things get even better, top local officials said during the sessions of the country's top legislature and political advisory body.

Many lives have been lost in the past in the province in mine accidents and the government should do more to prevent further fatalities, said Yuan Chunqing, Party chief of Shanxi province.

"About 400,000 people work in mines in Shanxi," he said. "When I took office last year, I reached a consensus with Governor Wang Jun that work safety was as important as economic growth to Shanxi. If work safety cannot be improved, people will not be living better lives."

The mortality rate for every million tons of raw coal fell from 0.905 in 2005 to 0.187 in 2010, said Yuan. He noted that the average nationwide was 0.749 last year.

Shanxi produced 740 million tons of raw coal last year and 139 workers died in mine accidents during the same period.

While the number was alarming, it was lower than the 500 who died in mine accidents in 2009 and far less than the 1,661 lives lost in 2008, he said.

"The fall in the death toll shows the situation is being handled much better," added Wang Jun, the province's governor, who was speaking at a news conference. "We are confident that work safety will improve further. More efforts by the government, enterprises and workers will be made to ensure the mortality rate will not go back up again."

The provincial government made 12 regulations last year related to coal mines, including a slew of anti-corruption measures against mine managerial personnel and the assigning of work safety assistants who will work with the heads of local governments.

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