The State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) has warned of a possible rise in the number of colliery accidents as coal production accelerates to meet winter demand.
In a circular to its local branches, the administration identified the fourth quarter as "the peak season for coal production" and "very susceptible to accidents".
Six colliery accidents in the week ending on Sunday left 41 people dead or missing, the circular said.
On October 25, an explosion in a colliery in Chongqing Municipality left at least 10 miners dead, while on Sunday, 10 miners were trapped underground following a flood at Lingxian coal mine in Jiangxi Province. Nine are still missing.
The administration urged branches to take effective measures to secure "permanent improvements" in mine safety.
It ordered the closure of collieries that fail to meet safety requirements and for thorough and comprehensive overhauls, with compulsory and strict inspections to be carried out before production is resumed.
It also called on branches to accelerate the closure of small mines, which last year accounted for two-thirds of all mining accidents in which 3,431 lives were lost.
Abuse of authority
"Malpractice and illegal behavior must be stopped. All accidents must be handled immediately and in line with the law," the circular said.
Song Hansong, deputy director of the malfeasance and infringement department of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said corruption, abuse of authority and dereliction of duty by some government officials at grassroots levels accounted for many of the illegal mines.
More than 88 percent of malfeasance cases concerning severe or extremely severe production accidents placed on file for investigation and prosecution in the first eight months involved officials of law enforcement and supervision departments at grassroots levels, Song said.
Over the past two years, the government has closed more than 9,000 small mines with a maximum annual capacity of 300,000 tons and will shut a further 1,000 by the end of the year.
However, the task of improving production while meeting surging demand remains arduous for the world's largest coal producer and consumer.
In 2005, the rate of fatalities per million tons of coal mined in China was 70 times higher than in the United States.
In another statement released yesterday, the SAWS said it was soliciting public submissions on a draft plan concerning 604 standards for production safety between this year and 2010.
The SAWS has required local branches to "identify loopholes in production safety supervision and prevent severe accidents".
(Xinhua News Agency November 2, 2007)