As an energy-hungry country, China still relies heavily on coal to drive its economic development.
However, the continuous coal mining disasters that have rocked the country in recent years have cast a shadow over the prosperous sector.
It has become a worrying phenomenon that the desire to obtain even greater economic returns with less cost more often than not wins over the binding force of safety regulations in some areas. The sad fact is that when such a mentality guides practice, it often leads to the heavy loss of life.
What happened in North China's Shanxi Province this month is a case in point.
Three serious mine accidents hit the province earlier this month, painting the already gloomy coal mine safety situation there even darker.
In eight days beginning from August 11, coal mining disasters befell three mines, taking the lives of almost 100 miners.
The fatalities came on top of the previous two periods of disaster that struck in less than a year in the province, which boasts a glut of the resource. In one of them, which took place in November, gas explosions in nine small coal mines claimed 97 lives.
While lamenting over the loss of precious human life, it is more important that concerned parties and the entire mining sector learn a lesson and plug the loopholes in production and management.
Unlike previously, where the mines having the accidents tended to be small privately owned operations, the latest mishaps befell State-owned mines.
The three mines that experienced the gas explosions were all State-owned and had solid safety production records.
For example, the Xing'ergou mine in the city of Datong has never had a gas explosion over the past 40 years.
Violation of safety regulations was found to be the major cause of the tragedies. Parallel to that was a lack of vigilance by some miners and mine owners.
Hence, it is clear that safe production education, together with more management training for mining professionals and safety check-ups by supervisory groups, needs to be enhanced.
It is also important that others in the sector reflect deeply on the alarming messages coming from the series of Shanxi coal mine disasters.
(China Daily August 26, 2003)