Deadly blast in state-owned Chinese coal mine in Heilongjiang kills 104 miners
Grieving families claim mining officials didn't even notify them of the deadly accident which trapped a number of mines in a state-operated Chinese coal mine near the Russian border.
Posted: Monday , 23 Nov 2009
RENO, NV -
The death toll at the Xinxing coal mine in Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China rose to 104 miners killed as grieving families demanded answers Monday from mining officials.
A total of 528 miners were working when a massive blast occurred at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning at the mine near China's border with Russia. Of that crew, 420 miners managed to escape, according to official Chinese news service Xinhua.
As of Monday morning, four miners were still missing and were feared dead.
The news agency reported that the mine's director, deputy director and chief engineer were fired as Chinese officials apparently had not given families of the victims information regarding the fatal blast. Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang is overseeing the rescue effort.
China's State Administration of Work Safety is conducting an investigation of the blast at the nearly century old operation. The mine is operated by the state-owned Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group, and averages 1.45 million tonnes of production annually.
The explosion was China's deadliest in the past two years. Rescue efforts had been hampered by coal gas and collapsed tunnels, as well as freezing temperatures.
The provincial news website www.northeast.com.cn quoted workers at the mine who claimed safety staff knew gas in the mine had reached dangerous levels and were rushing to evacuate miners when the blast erupted 500 meters below ground. China Central Television reported the explosion also disabled the mine's ventilation and communications system, which also slowed rescue efforts.
Xinhua said Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group will be prohibited from selling shares to the public for the next three years because of the accident. The National Reform and Development Commission announced in May that the company had hoped to raise as much as 10 billion Yuan (US$1.5 billion) through an IPO.
During the first half of this year, the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety said 1,175 people died in official recorded coal mine accidents in China, a decline of 18.4% compared to the same period of 2008. It is estimated that 3,215 miners died in accidents last year.
A mine explosion in central Henan province in September killed 79 workers. In 2005, a coal mine explosion in northeast Liaoning Province killed 214 miners, while another 181 miners drowned during flooding in September 2007 at two neighboring mines in the eastern Shandong Province.
China, which consumed 42.6% of world coal production last year, is believed to have the deadliest mining industry in the world. Government officials have cracked down on illegal or small coal mines to reduce fatalities, closing about 1,000 mines so far.
"Development is important, but the growth of GDP shouldn't been achieved at the price of miners' blood," Heilongjiang Provincial Governor Li Zhanshu told the news media during the weekend.