China reported a 20.2 percent decrease in the number of fatalities caused by coal mine accidents in 2007.
The country's safety watchdog said Saturday that 3,786 people were killed in coal mine accidents last year.
"It is the second consecutive year for the country to report a 20-percent fall in coal mine accident fatalities," Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), said at a national work safety meeting in Beijing.
China has been shutting down coal mines with small capacities and pouring more investment into safety facilities to improve the colliery safety record.
Small coal mines accounted for one third of all the coal mines in China, but caused two thirds of the total deaths every year, according to sources with the SAWS.
China had closed 11,155 small coal mines, 45 percent of the country's total, since it began to shut down small collieries in the second half of 2005, the meeting disclosed.
Over the past three years, the central government had arranged nine billion yuan (1.23 billion U.S. dollars) in treasury bonds to upgrade safety technologies and equipments at major state-owned coal mines, and also managed to mobilize an investment of 64.1 billion yuan from local governments and enterprises.
The central government would continue to arrange three billion yuan in treasury bonds for safety improvements this year, along with 20 billion yuan at the local level, the meeting said.
As the world's largest coal producer, China had seen frequent coal mine accidents as safety enforcement was lax and mine owners pushed production beyond safety limits to earn higher profits.
The country's coal output was estimated at 2.52 billion tons throughout last year, up five percent on the amount produced in 2006, according to Li.
The meeting, which kicked off on Friday, said a day earlier that 101,480 people died in workplace and transportation accidents in 2007, down 10.1 percent year-on-year, with road-related accidents down 8.7 percent and railway-related accidents down 45.1 percent.
"The production safety situation is improving nationwide, but tasks ahead remain arduous this year," Li said on Friday.
(Xinhua News Agency January 13, 2008)