China's major coal producer Shanxi Province has shut 1,034 small-scale coal mines, in the wake of a series of fatal accidents since late last year.
Although small mines were encouraged two decades ago to boost the province's economic advantage, they have fallen prey to deadly accidents.
Due to slack security systems and outdated equipment, gas explosions and flooding are frequent in these mines. Five such accidents killed 99 people in nine days last December. The latest victims are seven miners trapped in a mine in Yangquan and confirmed dead a week ago.
The number of such mines once exceeded 9,000. By the end of 2001 the figure was reduced to 4,685 due to government restructuring measures. With an annual output of more than 100 million tons of coal, these mines were employing nearly 400,000 people.
All township mines were shut in the wake of the tragedies. More than 5,000 security supervision staff thoroughly checked all mines in this province four times. The campaign led to the closure of illegal mines and the detention of a couple of owners operating illegally.
More than 3,000 such mines so far have passed security checks and resumed business.
The township coal mines will be limited to under 3,000 and mines with an annual production under 90,000 tons will be closed, according to provincial authorities.
(China Daily July 25, 2002)