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Illegal Mines Shut Down; Others Are Now Safer

Tens of thousands of small coal mines that failed to meet basic safety standards have been shut down after months of work by the government to reduce coal mine fatalities, said Zhang Baoming, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, Tuesday.

Since May 2001, China has shut down 12,257 small coal mines, reducing the total number of small mines from 82,000 in 1997 to 23,000, Zhang said.

Another 8,000 small mines will be shut down by the end of the year, he added.

Last year the administration held six national overhauls on 17 major coal mines and 62 cities to improve workplace safety. The government also strengthened penalties on the operation of illegal coal mines, he said.

The work safety committee of the State Council has also investigated eight gas explosion cases in Shaanxi, Jiangsu and Shanxi provinces, and leaders in those provinces found responsible were punished. Many local governments also organized special panels to supervise the operation of coal mines, Zhang said.

In Shanxi Province's Linfen city, which has 63 billion tons of coal deposits, 425 small coal mines were shut down in the past three years, said Cheng Hongcai, the city's vice-mayor.

At the same time, billions of yuan in investment were put into improving mine safety through technical innovations and the purchase of safety equipment for major State-owned coal mines.

Statistics indicate that more than 2 billion yuan (US$240 million) was spent on 103 safety improvement projects for hundreds of coal mines.

The closing and overhaul of coal mines have also helped reduce the severe oversupply of mines after the nation restrained its coal production to 1 billion tons per year from 1.37 billions tons in 1997, said Zhang.

The proportion of coal mines run by the State, local governments and towns respectively shifted from 4:2:4 to 6:2:2, he added.

Zhang vowed to continue the fight against sub-standard mines and strengthen safety supervision of existing mines.

(China Daily April 10, 2002)

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