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380 deaths daily!
The shocking Chinese coal mines

Fushun’s Mengjiagou coal mine had a gas explosion in 2003, with a casualty of 25 miners ­– that was not as much a bad news­ ­as was their relatives being beaten up to death asking for compensation! In 2007, the official figure of the number of deaths in coal mines stood out at around 5000 miners, although independent research agencies estimate the actual figure to be as much as three to four times of that. It is reported that many sub-contractors in China run their mines like monster task masters. And the province of Shanxi is a crying shame of an example for China in this regard.

If last year’s coal mine accident in Shanxi that killed 270 people – and resulted in the resignation of Meng Xuenong, Shanxi’s governor – made you open your eyes, perhaps you missed out the fact that a few years back, the Director of State Administration of Production Safety in China accepted that 380 people died everyday in the coal mines of Shanxi, causing a direct economic loss of $12 billion every year. The figure is a staggering 2.5% of China’s GDP!

China’s fatality rate per million tonnes of coal production was reported half a decade back to be 3,824. Compare this to the 0.1 figure in the US and even Australia, top coal manufacturers.

In 2006, Premier Wen Jiabao made commitments to improve the safety standards. Eventually, in the same year, he passed an order to close down any coal mine with an annual output of less than 90,000 tonnes. Shanxi’s coal mines still continue haphazardly. This year, the new Shanxi governor commissioned that by 2011, the number of coal mines will be reduced by 1500 (to 1000) and by 2015 to 800. The claim is that any shaft with an annual output of less than 300,000 tonnes will be closed and taken over by the government. Are the Chinese true to their word? Well, the coal dependent Shanxi’s economy shrank by 4.4% in the first half of the current year compared to the same period last year (and it is the only province in China to have experienced that). One hopes other provinces are next in line...

By:- Sayan Ghosh

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