A villager in Zhongyang county, Shanxi province, picks up and carries away mineral waste from a nearby coal mine for his own use in November.[Photo/China Daily]
China has stepped up efforts to reduce the number of coal mines, as it plans to shut down more than 2,000 mines next year and limit the number to within 10,000 by 2016.
More than 1,100 coal mines were closed this year to eliminate outdated capacity, according to a report by a top work safety watchdog.
Yang Dongliang, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, said that the general situation this year is satisfactory and the number of major workplace accidents has been greatly reduced.
The shutdown plan aims at improving work safety at mines and reducing pollution.
Last month, a fire at a coal mine of State-owned Liaoning Fuxin Coal Corp claimed 28 lives and injured 50 people.
In June, 11 workers died and eight were injured in a gas explosion in a coal mine of Guizhou Hualong Coal Industry in Guizhou province. The company is a joint venture between a local coal firm and Hong Kong-listed China Resources Power Holdings.
Small coal mines are more prone to accidents and their outdated facilities have been criticized for low efficiency and causing pollutants. All coal mines with annual production capacity of less than 90,000 metric tons are required to be gradually closed, as well as those mines that are operating illegally and do not comply with State safety requirements.
China’s top legislature approved amendments to the Work Safety Law in August in an effort to reduce workplace accidents.
The law, effective from Dec 1, increases penalties and reinforces the concept of human safety taking priority over economic progress. A major accident will result in penalties of between 1 million yuan ($161,000) and 5 million yuan, and extraordinarily serious accidents will be punished by fines between 5 million and 20 million yuan.
According to the administration office, between January and October, the number of coal mine accidents and fatalities were reduced by 15.1 percent and 15.4 percent compared with the same period last year.
Of the 50 major coal-producing counties in China, the number of accidents had dropped by 29.7 percent and deaths fell by 36.5 percent from January to November on a year-on-year basis, according to the work safety watchdog. Fourteen of the 50 counties had no accidents in the first 11 months of the year.