Seventeen people were given jail terms ranging from one year to life imprisonment for a coal mine gas blast that killed 105 miners and injured 18 others in north China's Shanxi Province in December last year, according to the local authorities on Sunday.
The legal representative Wang Hongliang, actual investor Wang Donghai of Ruizhiyuan Coal Mining Co. Ltd., and Kong Huiping, a manager in charge of production of Xinyao Coal Mine managed by the company, were sentenced to life imprisonment, according to the ruling of a public trial held in a stadium in Linfen City on Sunday.
The other management, including the colliery manager Gao Jianmin, vice manager Qin Sanshun, were also jailed for up to 20 years, said the city court.
The company was fined 185.2 million yuan (US$24.7 million) for illegal trade of explosives, illegal working on unproved coal bed and evading tax.
The explosion took place at 11:15 p.m. on December 5 at Xinyao Coal Mine, Hongtong County, when 128 miners were working in the shaft, far more than the maximum of 60 miners for one shift as approved by Shanxi coal mine authority.
The accident left 105 people dead, eight injured, seven seriously and also caused an economic loss of 42 million yuan (US$5.6 million).
The court said the Ruizhiyuan company kept increasing the output of No. 2 coal bed in the Xinyao Coal Mine since 2004. It also worked on the No. 9 coal bed without approval, despite its designed production capacity of 210,000 tons a year. To conceal their illegal operation, the company even built a secret pass between the two coal beds and shut the entry during authorities' inspection.
The explosion occurred in a 40-meter tunnel of the No. 9 coal bed which was not equipped with any ventilating facilities. Gas density accumulated beyond the safety limit and spark triggered the blast.
The colliery managers delayed reporting the accident to local authorities while sending other workers down the shaft for rescue operations, the court said.
The accident is believed to be the nation's second deadliest mining accident last year. In August, 181 miners died when heavy rains flooded two mines in eastern Shandong Province.
(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2008)