Eight miners were killed in two coal mine accidents in central Hunan Province, the local work safety bureau said on Friday.
Four miners, including the owner Li Mingguang, were choked to death by poisonous gas in Luwei Coal Mine in Dashi town of Leiyang city at 8 PM on Wednesday.
Another four died when Zhaipochong Coal Mine in Yizhang county caved in on Thursday morning.
Investigators found that the two mines had no production licenses and had continued to operate even after being ordered by local governments to close.
Officials said that mine owners, encouraged by the surge in coal price, were quickly expanding production to meet the rising demand from heating companies.
In an earlier accident, seven miners were still trapped underground on Monday in northeast Liaoning Province.
Chances of their survival appear slim as the tunnels were more than 50 meters under the current water level, local officials said.
Coal mines in China suffer frequent accidents, including flooding, cave-ins and gas blasts, due to poor safety conditions and lax supervision by local governments.
There were 2,945 coal mine accidents in 2006, in which 4,746 people died - a drop of 20 percent from the previous year but nevertheless equivalent to 13 miners dead per day, according to the the State Administration of Work Safety.
(Xinhua News Agency January 13, 2007)