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Tough Action Against Illegal Investments in Mines
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Zhao Tiechui, vice minister of the State Administration of Work Safety, said yesterday that there would be a further crackdown this year on illegal investments in coalmines by government officials this year, in a drive to clean up the industry.


Zhao, also director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, issued the warning on the sidelines of the ongoing Fourth Plenary Session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.


In his government work report to the NPC on Sunday, Premier Wen Jiabao placed an unprecedented emphasis on improving work safety.


"We will conduct in-depth investigations into cases of dereliction of duty and corruption relating to work safety and severely punish those responsible," Wen said.


Officials with vested interests in the mines have been blamed for their disregard of safety procedures.


Last year, 5,986 miners were killed in 3,341 accidents, accounting for almost 80 percent of all coalmine fatalities globally.


By the end of last year, the government had forced 4,878 officials and heads of state-owned enterprises to withdraw 562 million yuan (US$69 million) worth of investments in coalmines.


Zhao yesterday encouraged the public to report corrupt practices and ferret out corrupt officials who have thus far escaped detection.


"We depend on the support of the public to push ahead with the work," he said.


Zhao also emphasized that his administration will step up efforts to close down unsafe coalmines.


Further, to reduce the number of accidents, Zhao's administration issued new safety rules for coalmines last September, ordering the closure of illegal mines and the suspension of those that failed to meet safety requirements.


A total of 5,243 illegal and unsafe mines had been closed down by the end of last year.


"Despite the initial progress, it cannot be ruled out that some unsafe coal mines are still in operation," Zhao said.


The central government has said that it will allocate 3 billion yuan (US$371 million) in treasury bonds to control the emission of gases in coalmines, the primary cause of explosions. 


(China Daily March 10, 2006)

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