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Caution Called for at Mines as Winter Sets in
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The number of mine accidents could increase as the thirst for coal rises with winter setting in, warned a senior work safety official.

The number of accidents and their death toll increased by 26.1 percent and 44.4 percent respectively in October, compared to the previous month, according to the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS).

According to SAWS, at least 130 miners were killed and more than 40 others remain missing from a spate of colliery accidents since mid-October.

"The harsh situation underlines the safety problems in the nation's mining industry," Wang Xianzheng, vice-minister of SAWS, told a televised conference.

Coal-rich Gansu and Shanxi provinces have been the two major victims of the recent spate of colliery accidents, each with scores of deaths.

For example, 19 miners have been confirmed dead and 28 others remain missing, following a gas explosion on November 6 in Jiaojiazhai Coal Mine in Shanxi Province.

Coal is the nation's major fuel for thermal power generation. Its prime position in the power industry explains over-production at many collieries, experts say.

Huang Shengchu, president of China Coal Information Institute, said: "It is collieries exceeding their permitted production capacities that has led to the rise in accidents over the past two weeks."

Accidents can occur at any time if collieries don't closely follow work safety systems, officials warned.

Huang said the coal mining industry managed an unprecedented work safety record during the first nine months of 2006, with 1,000 less deaths than the average figure of 6,000 to 7,000.

But more strict safety measures should be taken to curb the resurgence of accidents in the last quarter of the year, regarded as a critical period for accidents, said Huang.

(China Daily November 10, 2006)

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