China's State Council ordered a crackdown on the dishonest reporting of coal mine accidents in a notice circulated on Thursday.
"Dishonest reporting of mine accidents not only violates laws and regulations, but also loses time in rescue operations, which could cause greater losses," said the notice.
"Some (mine owners) purposely cover up the truth by damaging the accident sites," it said.
Since the start of February, dishonest reporting has occurred in four coal mine accidents, in central China's Henan and Shanxi Provinces and in northeast China's Liaoning Province, in which 66 people died in total.
The State Council called for harsher punishments for those who make false reports or flee and hide after an accident.
It also called for closer investigation of all work accidents and harsher punishments for those responsible.
The State Council encouraged a wider range of supervision from the public and media and better protection for informants.
Fifty-one people died and 32 are missing after accidents in China's coal mines from March 19 to 25, a rise of 39 dead or missing from the same period last year.
The latest coal mine blast occurred in Shanxi Province on Wednesday, killing at least 26 people.
(Xinhua News Agency March 30, 2007)