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Safety Experts Sent to Curb Colliery Accidents

Eighty-four experts from around the country were dispatched Wednesday to 45 major state-owned collieries to help curb the number of gas-related accidents.

"Examinations will be conducted by these experts from April 20 to July 20 into major coal mines that are prone to gas accidents," said Li Yizhong, minister of the General Administration of Work Safety Wednesday.

It is the job of these experts to diagnose any potential risks and improve prevention measures as well as gather ideas for future technological innovation to lessen the number of such accidents, officials said. "Unlike usual work safety overhauls, we will uncover technical loopholes according to the situation of the collieries," said Zhang Tiegang, an academic with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who will lead a team to Jiangxi and Hubei provinces.

"Comprehensive methods are needed to deal with gas-related problems, which require us to consolidate the technical achievements we have made in the past," he said.

Coorganized by Li's administration, the Sate Administration of Coal Mine Safety, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Science and Technology, the experts were divided into 11 panels to go to 17 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, where the 45 collieries are located, said Zhao Tiechui, head of the coal mine safety administration.

More than half of the pits are under threat of gas-related accidents, Zhao said.

China's coal mines are regarded as some of the world's deadliest, with thousands of deaths a year blamed on the lack of required equipment or an indifference to safety standards.

Driven by China's energy demands, the country doubled its coal output in 2004 to 1.9 billion tons from 1 billion in 2001, said Zhao.

"Currently, 1.2 billion tons of coal in China is produced safely, while 700 million tons is dug out in an unsafe environment."

Work safety investment has not grown in tandem with increased production, said Zhao, adding that there is a safety investment shortfall of about 50 billion yuan (US$6 billion) at state-owned collieries.

To reverse the situation, the government has allocated 3 billion yuan (US$362.7 million) to upgrade safety this year.

The National Development and Reform Commission in February called on coal mines with a sound safety record to allocate 15 yuan (US$1.8) from every ton of coal produced to establish a fund to improve safety.

(China Daily April 21, 2005)

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