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Joint Inspections Target Mine Pollution, Safety

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) and the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) sent out four joint inspection teams on Thursday as part of a drive to shut down unsafe mines and clean up polluters.

The inspection tour, which will continue for 40 days, will cover eight provinces. North China's Shanxi Province, home to numerous coal mines, is on the list.

This inspection follows a nationwide campaign conducted last May.

At that time, the three central government bodies ordered local environment, land and resources, and work safety authorities across the country to end illegal operations in regions where mining is prohibited. They also said that they would take mining companies to task for pollution.

The ongoing inspection is being conducted to improve the work of local authorities and study the current environmental situation in areas around mines. Discussions will be held with local governments on solving such problems as restoring the environment at abandoned mines, said Jing Dongxia, of SEPA's Environment Inspection Bureau.

In recent years, environmental damage and pollution caused by mining have become increasingly serious and the people living in mining areas have been greatly affected.

The situation is worse where mining companies are privately owned or run by townships, many of which pay little attention to environmental protection, according to Jing.

For example, many small mining companies at the Dabaoshan metal mines in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province, discharge untreated wastewater. Water there is so polluted that the incidence of cancer is very high, she said.

"It is hard to phase out those small companies, which just stop production when inspection teams come and resume operations after they go," Jing said.

She indicated that one way to end such operations is for land and resources authorities to refrain from granting mining certificates to polluting companies.

"Departments involved should strengthen their coordination in this regard," she said.

(China Daily September 3, 2004)

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