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State Council Responds to Gas Blast

Liu Guoqiang, vice governor of the northeastern province of Liaoning and responsible for industry and work safety, has been suspended after last week's colliery gas blast, according to a decision made at Wednesday's State Council meeting.

The meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, was convened to work on measures to improve work safety in coal mines, where major accidents involving large casualties and economic losses have occurred with alarming frequency over the past year.

The gas explosion on February 14 at Sunjiawan Coal Mine, owned by Fuxin Coal Industry Group, killed 214 of the 574 miners working at the time.

The State Council sent an investigation team headed by Supervision Minister Li Zhilun to the scene, and those responsible for the accident will be punished once the cause of the disaster is identified, according to a statement released following the meeting.

China's coal production picture is very grim, said the statement, and there are serious problems such as violation of safety standards and overproduction in some coal mines.

Officials at the meeting decided the State Administration of Production Safety would become the General Administration of Production Safety, and the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety would be included in its jurisdiction.

Local governments are being instructed to implement a system of assigning specific leading cadres to watch over work safety in all coal mines to ensure they strictly abide by safety production standards.

Three billion yuan (US$360 million) will be devoted to technological renovations to improve safety, in gas management in particular, at state-owned major coal mines, according to the decision.

To prevent major gas accidents, the government will also send safety supervision teams to 45 major coal mines with serious gas problems and invite colliery safety experts to evaluate the situation in mines most at risk and formulate prevention measures.

The meeting also heard a report by the National Forestry Bureau on desertification and adopted a prevention and control plan for 2005 to 2010.

(Xinhua News Agency February 24, 2005)

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