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836 Officials Relinquish Stakes in Coal Mines

836 officials and state-owned enterprise (SOE) leaders have abandoned their coal mine investments in north China's Shanxi province, a major coal producing region, amid a nationwide crackdown on illegal coal mine investment by officials.

According to the provincial government, those officials and SOE leaders have relinquished coal mine investments worth more than 40 million yuan (nearly US$5 million).

On Aug. 30, China issued a circular requiring all officials and SOE leaders with coal mine investments to withdraw their stakes, setting Sept. 22 as the deadline.

It said if the officials refused to relinquish the illegal investments, they would be removed from their posts.

The circular was issued against the backdrop of frequent coal mine accidents in China. Li Yizhong, director of the National Bureau of Production Safety Supervision and Administration, has said the collusion between mine owners and officials is to be condemned.

Some coal mines are owned or partly-owned by local officials. These mines always escape inspection and become black holes devouring miners' lives, he said.

Statistics show that China recorded some 2,700 mining fatalities in the first half of this year, 3 percent higher than last year. The 24 most deadly accidents claimed a total of 704 lives, a year-on-year increase of 114 percent.

In the first seven months, Shanxi witnessed 90 coal mine accidents in which 316 lives were lost. The six deadliest accidents occurred at illegally operated coal mines, claiming 183 lives.

Investigation of these accidents showed that some officials collaborate with mine owners to make illegal coal mines appear to be legal.

Up to Sept. 30, reports from 11 Shanxi cities showed that 922 officials and SOE leaders were involved in coal mine businesses, with a total investment of over 92 million yuan (US$11 million).

According to Li, national figures about officials and SOE leaders who relinquished coal mine investments will be released in mid-October.

(Xinhua News Agency October 18, 2005)

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