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Mine Safety to Improve Further
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The country's safety authorities yesterday pledged to improve mine safety standards further by upgrading gas treatment and closing more illegal mines.

"We will make mine safety our top priority and reduce major gas accidents substantially this year," Minister of the State Administration of Work Safety Li Yizhong said at an annual national meeting on work safety in Beijing.

This year more low-gas coalmines will be equipped with monitoring systems to prevent accidents, he said. All the high-gas and 69.3 percent of the low-gas mines had such systems by the end of 2006.

For the third successive year, the government will allot 3 billion yuan ($375 million) to support safety technology innovation in key State-owned mines that account for 53 percent of the annual coal output.

Li conceded that though there were "obvious" weak links in work safety. "Driven by a strong market demand, some small mines, fireworks plants, construction teams and bus companies recklessly engage in illegal production.

"And some local governments' monitoring of such activities (and punitive action) has been weak."

But the country's work safety record was relatively good last year, he said, when fewer people were killed in industrial accidents. In real terms, 112,822 people died, a drop of 11.2 percent over 2005.

A crucial year

This year is crucial in the battle against illegal and unsafe coalmines, Li said.

By April 2006, the country closed 5,931 coalmines that had failed to meet the statutory safety standards. After that, the battle shifted to coalmines that destroy natural resources, pollute the environment or violate industrial policies. About 5,000 such coalmines will be closed by the end of this year, Li said.

He said the country would try its best to reduce the number of deaths in accidents by 1.3 percent and control the death rate per million tons of coal produced at 1.923, a drop of 5.8 percent over 2006.

The death rate per million tons of coal produced in 2006 was 2.041, a drop of 27.4 percent over 2005.

To achieve the goal, the administration will expedite the pace of legislation on work safety.

To make the rescue teams more efficient, the administration this year will build 26 national-level rescue bases and 20 bases to counter dangerous chemical accidents.

And about 70 percent provincial-level and 50 percent prefecture-level areas will set up three-tier emergency management and rescue command system.

(China Daily January 25, 2007)

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