China will have closed down 10,000 of the small-scale collieries by the end of this year, six months ahead of schedule to shut down around half its small coal mines by mid-2008.
Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), disclosed the timetable on Tuesday while attending a conference commending the rescue of 69 miners, who were trapped in a flooded coal mine in Henan Province for more than three days, in Shanxian county.
Small coal mines, defined as having an annual production of less than 30,000 tons, account for one third of China's total production, but two thirds of the deaths resulting from coal mine accidents.
Encouraged in the 1980s, small coal mines mushroomed across the country to number more than 80,000. In 2006, accidents in small coal mines claimed 3,431 lives.
To better the small coal mine safety management and reduce the death toll in coal mine accidents, China has set a target two years ago to close 10,000 small mines from August 2005 to June 2008.
(Xinhua News Agency August 14, 2007)