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China Vows to Close Unsafe Coal Mines
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The Chinese government has vowed to close all small coal mines operating without proper safety standards in the next three years.

More than 7,000 small coal mines were to close imminently, Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, announced at a conference on work safety on Monday.

Under the 11th five-year plan, the government plans to cut the number of small mines from around 23,000 to 10,000 by 2010.

Li said 5,931 small mines had been closed by April 7.

He urged local safety authorities to tighten supervision to prevent small mines from reopening.

The government is committed to restructuring its coal mining sector, which has been plagued by accidents.

Local governments have been instructed to close all mines with a production capacity of less than 30,000 tons by the end of 2007.

The reform also encourages large mining firms to merge with smaller ones as the government regards larger companies as more safety conscious.

After restructuring, the annual production capacity for major coal bases like Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region should be at least 300,000 tons each.

Annual production for medium-sized bases, including Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Gansu and Qinghai provinces, and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, should be at least 150,000 tons each.

A total of 3,341 coal mine accidents were reported in China last year, a drop of 8.2 percent from 2004, resulting in 5,986 fatalities.

(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2006)

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