Officials pledged on Thursday to improve work safety in the country's 26,000 coal mines, which claimed the lives of 4,620 in the first nine months.
Liang Jiakun, vice director of the State Administration of Production Safety (SAPS), said at a press conference that China will strive to reduce the annual fatalities caused by coal mine accidents from the current under 7,000 to under 5,000 in 2007.
A national work safety watchdog will be established under the State Council to enhance national leadership and coordination in working safety, he said.
Most of the 2,802 accidents in the first nine months occurred in private coalmines, which account for about 80 percent of the total coalmines, said SAPS spokesman Huang Yi.
Those enterprises lack work safety facilities and production methods were underdeveloped, Huang said.
The natural conditions are also a vital factor. Over half of Chinese coal mines were rich in gas, Huang said, adding that that triggered 70 to 80 percent of the total accidents.
Accidents in the coalmines have the highest fatality rate, followed by road accidents, according to SAPS figures.
China will continue to close the coalmines which cannot meet safety criteria, especially the small and illegal ones, to avoid more catastrophes, Liang said.
China will also raise the compensation standard for the victims, Liang said, adding that will force the entrepreneurs to invest more in safety equipment.
Most of the victims were rural workers, Liang said, and the current compensation ranges from 10,000 yuan (about US$1,200) to 50,000 yuan, depending on the economic situation of different regions and enterprises.
China will also establish a national work safety watchdog under the State Council, Huang said. The new committee will enhance national leadership and coordination in working safety, he said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 24, 2003)