Leading officials of Chinese coalmines must now regularly go down into dark and dangerous shafts by themselves, according to a newly-issued document by China's General Administration of Work Safety (GAWS).
All local governments should enact detailed regulations to guarantee the smooth implementation of the compulsory task. Related regulations should be reported to the GAWS, said an official of the administration.
GAWS had appealed for tougher penalties for mine operators responsible for deadly coal mine accidents, blaming them for focusing on money instead of worker's lives.
The new move is aimed at uncovering safety risks in coal mines and improving officials' and miners' awareness of safety.
The administration ordered its local branches to supervise the new policy and record the operation to the GAWS.
It also delivered a detailed regulation of the country's leading coal producer Shanxi Province to all provincial branches for reference.
The regulation issued by the Shanxi Provincial Coal Industrial Bureau stipulates that top officials of coal mines must make three inspection tours of shafts each month, deputy officials who are in charge of production, safety, use of mining equipment and technologies must go down into the shaft at least four times and deputy chief engineers must visit shafts at least five times a month.
Repeated disasters have exposed many management flaws in Chinese coal mines, including poor safety measures, old equipment and lax safety procedures.
China's central government is determined to take tough measures to punish those public servants charged with negligence and corruption. After a deadly accident in northeastern China's Liaoning Province, the State Council meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao on Feb. 23 suspended the post of Vice Governor Liu Guoqiang, who is responsible for industry and work safety.
In order to intensify efforts in work safety supervision, the State Council will devote three billion yuan (US$360 million) to technological renovation related to work safety, gas management in particular, at state-owned major coal mines.
The central government also sent safety supervision teams to 45 major coal mines with serious gas problems and invite colliery safety experts to evaluate safety situations in coal mines with potential danger and formulate specific prevention measures.
To protect miners' rights and interests, China has tripled the compensation for miners who die in mine accidents, from former average of 30,000 to 80,000 yuan (US$3,600 to 9,600) to 200,000 yuan (US$24,000).
In the first quarter of this year, there were 206,970 accidents causing casualties in China, resulting in 30,597 deaths, according to a news release by the GAWS.
The number of accidents and total deaths declined by 12.9 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively, compared with the same quarter last year.
(Xinhua News Agency April 10, 2005)