An official with China's safety watchdog has pledged to trim down 10,000 small coal mines, almost half of the country's total small coal mines, by the end of 2010.
Huang Yi, spokesman of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), told a national energy forum that currently there are still 21,000 small coal mines operating in China.
The government encourages large state-controlled coal mines to restructure small coal mines via mergers, acquisitions and share-holding in a bid to strengthen management and enhance centralization of the sector.
He disclosed that China will develop large coal production bases and large coal producing enterprises.
By the end of the country's 11th Five-Year (2006-2010) program period, he noted, the combined annual production capacity of China's 13 large state-designated coal production bases will reach around 1.3 billion tons, accounting for half of the country's total.
As the world's biggest coal producer and consumer, China has been plagued by the problem of frequent coal mine accidents over the past few years.
According to SAWS, two-thirds of the country's coal mine deaths occurred in small mines that were backwardly equipped and poorly managed.
From January to April this year, small coal mines, whose output accounted for only one third of the country's total, reported 763 deaths in 483 accidents
Last year, 5,938 people were killed in 3,341 coal-mine related accidents throughout China. This prompted the authorities to intensify efforts on cracking down on small and illegally operated coal mines this year.
China has closed 5,931 small coal mines in the first four months of 2006. The government aims to shut down all unsafe small coal mines by 2007, whose number once stood at 80,000.
(Xinhua News Agency May 27, 2006)