Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), said on Monday that more unsafe coal mines in China must be closed.
He also urged local governments across the country to learn lessons from the May 18 cola mine flooding that left 56 miners trapped.
At a video conference jointly held by the SAWS and the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety (SACMS) in Beijing, Li called for a halt to the rising trend of accidents.
The coal mine flooding accident that happened on May 18 in north China's Shanxi Province showed that there were still many serious problems in China's coal mine safety sector, Li said.
The local governments must come down heavily on illegal mine owners who disregard laws, supervisors and miners' lives, Li noted.
Corruption cases hidden behind illegal mining operations should also be punished sternly, he said.
Zhao Tiechui, director of the SACMS, said at the conference that it was of top priority to close unsafe coal mines and tighten supervision over safety issues in major coal mines.
On May 18, 56 miners were trapped in a pit under a coal mine in Zuoyun county, Shanxi Province. But the exact number of trapped miners was concealed by 11 mine owners.
Two county leaders of Zuoyun have already resigned for the serious accident and the 11 coal mine owners have been arrested.
Li Yizhong reportedly blamed over-production for the accident. The mine had a license to produce 90,000 tons a year, but it produced 130,000 tons from March 2 to May 18.
(Xinhua News Agency June 6, 2006)