Fifty-six coal miners remain trapped under the pit of a private
coal mine in the county of Zuoyun in north China's Shanxi Province. Rescue efforts have been
going on for 10 days, but the chances of survival are now very
An investigation has revealed that the miners may have dug into
another deserted pit full of water, which flooded into the shaft
where the miners were working.
But there are some indirect factors that are closely related to
the disaster. If these had not pushed the miners to dig for as much
coal as possible, the chances of these poor miners being trapped
would have been reduced to the minimum.
Profit is the link to connect these elements, and it lubricates
the entire process.
The owner of the mine had subcontracted the mine to the leaders
of several groups of miners from southwest China's Sichuan Province, who then further
subcontracted the production to leaders of lower level groups, who
then set the miners' production quotas.
According to the contract, the owner pays a mining team 34 yuan
(US$4.25) for every ton of coal, but he will sell the coal for six
times as much.
In order to make money, the leaders of the groups coerced the
lower level groups, whose leaders then forced the miners to dig as
much coal as possible.
The more coal the miners could haul out of the pit, the more
money its owner and those leaders would make.
What is even more ridiculous is the fact that the contract said
the owner would not bear any responsibility for whatever happens to
the miners while they were underground.
Such forms of coal production contracts and subcontracts are
strictly forbidden according to related law and regulations. But
such practices are quite common among many of the 180 mines in this
county and others across the country.
Xinjing Coal Mine, the pit in question, has all the required
licences and certificates for production and workplace safety.
The owner's brother is the head of the local people's congress
and directly in charge of local coal production.
This relationship may help explain why such a coal mine without
any safety facilities or measures could get the green light for
illegal coal production.
An investigative team headed by Li Yizhong, director of the
State Administration of Work Safety, was established on Saturday to
uncover the corruption behind this tragedy.
A down-to-earth probe will hopefully deal a blow to those
illegal mine operators.
(China Daily May 29, 2006)