China's top coal mine work safety official Monday vowed to work rigorously to cut down on mining accidents, which have killed 329 people so far this month.
A new nationwide investigation on safety in mines will be kicked off immediately in the country's coal mines, Zhang Baoming, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, told a national teleconference.
"All coal mines, including small private and large State-owned ones, which fail to meet safety requirements, will be asked to stop work and improve safety measures or they will be shut down,'' the director said.
Thanks to strict supervision measures, in the first quarter this year, a total of 745 mining accidents and explosions reportedly killed 1,182 workers, respectively 10.04 per cent and 2.31 per cent less than the figures for the first quarter of 2001.
However, in the first 28 days of April, 329 miners lost their lives in 125 mining accidents. In seven of the worst ones 114 people in seven different provinces and regions, from Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province to Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
In addition to the township private coal mines still keeping their bad record in work safety, in April, State-owned coal mines also have seen five severe mining accidents.
Since the coal price began to pick up a little, many coal mines have rushed to resume production, which has resulted in the coal supply exceeding demand and coal prices decreasing again recently, Zhang added.
Last year, main State-owned coal mines produced more than 80 million tons of coal in excess of their production targets, and the excess quantity for the first four months of this year reached 40 million tons.
The focus only on production in coal mines, especially small ones, which usually pay attention only to profit and ignore efforts to improve workplace safety and implement safety rules, is the main cause of the excessive accident figures, officials noted.
Workplace safety, especially in coal mining, has become a major responsibility for China's central government in recent years.
Last year, about 12,000 small coal mines that did not meet national safety requirements, were brought up to standard or shut down.
From now on, new small coal mines will not be allowed to open in China, Zhang said. The present 23,000 small mines are expected to be reduced to 16,000 by the end of this year, Zhang added.
(China Daily April 30, 2002)