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China to prevent coalbed gas blasts in 2008
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China will do more to prevent coal-mine gas blasts next year, after an explosion in north China killed 105 people earlier this month.

This year, China reported 898 deaths in 236 such accidents from January to November, according to information presented during a work conference of the colliery gas accident prevention panel held on Monday.

There were 57 fewer accidents than in the same period last year, down 19.5 percent, and the death toll was down 312 persons or 25.8 percent, according to the panel, which was set up to improve the  safety record of the industry.

But prevention remained difficult, as shown by recent accidents, the meeting heard. Participants at the meeting cited the deadly accident that claimed 105 lives in north China's Shanxi Province.

China would approve no mines with a capacity of less than 300,000 tons next year, the meeting decided. Small coal mines have been a major source of hazards due to poor safety facilities and slack management.

The panel pledged to work to prevent gas accidents through tougher regulations and enforcement in 2008.

The country should also start extracting coalbed methane from mines as an industry, because the gas was a prime cause of explosions when left in place, the panel heard. Production of coalbed methane is hampered by a lack of technology. The meeting decided that China would set up two national engineering research centers for this purpose and plan to run 10 demonstration projects.

China had invested 3 billion yuan ($405.4 million), raised through treasury bond issues, into coal mine gas accident prevention work annually over the past three years, according to Zhang Guobao, Vice Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission and also head of the prevention panel.

(Xinhua News Agency December 25, 2007)

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