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Inspectors to target coal mine safety
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The government's top work safety agency is to dispatch inspection teams to help improve workplace safety at coal mines across the country in the wake of a series of accidents that have claimed dozens of lives.

The month-long investigation, which gets under way this week, will involve seven teams being sent to 14 major coal production bases to supervise the implementation of work safety measures, the general office of the Work Safety Committee under the State Council said on Tuesday.

The 10-member teams, which comprise officials from the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) and State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, will head to provinces that regularly report fatal coal mine accidents, including Shanxi, Guizhou and Yunnan.

According to the latest figures from the SAWS, in the first 10 months of this year, 3,069 miners were killed in 1,920 coal mining accidents.

However, the death toll is down 19 percent on the same period in 2006, and the number of accidents has fallen 20.2 percent, the figures showed.

Although mining companies have been urged to improve work safety awareness and introduce measures to protect workers, fatal accidents continue to be reported.

On Monday, 12 miners were trapped following a gas explosion in a mine in Henan Province. As of Tuesday, just one body had been recovered.

Four days earlier, 35 miners were killed by a gas leak at the Qunli Colliery in Nayong county, Guizhou Province.

The Work Safety Committee said the main task of the inspection teams will be to check with local governments and mine operators to ensure the more than 17,000 existing and potential problems identified in earlier inspections had been addressed or rectified.

In the case of long-term, large-scale problems, the teams will press those involved to provide precise deadlines and details of how the matters will be dealt with.

The teams will also visit mines that have been ordered to close or had their licenses suspended until required improvements are carried out to ensure their compliance.

Last month, 11 people were killed and nine others were reported missing following accidents at two mines in Chongqing Municipality and Jiangxi Province, both of which had previously been ordered to close.

Li Yizhong, minister of the SAWS, said industrial safety must remain a priority, as the number of accidents was completely unacceptable.

"Accidents continue to happen, so local government departments must deal appropriately with cases of malpractice and close down those mines that are operating illegally," he said in a video conference last Monday.

(China Daily November 15, 2007)

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