China's work safety watchdog announced on Monday the launch of a program with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to improve work safety for the country's coal miners.
"China needs more international cooperation on work safety," said Peng Jianxun, of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), at the inauguration of the program.
The four-year program, with a total investment of US$14.42 million, aims to improve laws, regulations, standards, and management in coalmine work safety.
More than 1,000 miners and their families will receive safety training.
Coalmine accidents killed 4,746 people in 2006, a sharp decrease from the annual average death toll of more than 7,000 in the 1990s, figures from the SAWS show.
The death rate per one million tons of coal produced dropped to 2.04 last year, from 5.77 in 2000.
"Work safety is improving, though it still lags far behind the central government's requirement and public expectations as well as international levels," said Peng.
China's death rate per one million tons of coal was seven times that of India and Russia, and 70 times that of the United States, said Khalid Malik, UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in China.
The program will bring the most advanced international experience in coal mine work safety and help China improve its implementation of safety programs, especially at township level, he said.
Coalmines in towns, which produce one third of the country's total coal, account for two thirds of the deaths in mine accidents, according to the SAWS.
Coalmine accidents killed 357 people in China in the first two months of this year, according to the SAWS.
(Xinhua News Agency March 28, 2007)