One of CLB's foremost priorities in our labour rights litigation work is to find ways to intervene on behalf of China's coal miners, who work daily in one of the most life-threatening environments imaginable. Each year, at least 6,000 miners lose their lives in China as a result of preventable gas explosions and underground flooding.
One recent case involves an appalling accident in which 166 miners were killed in a massive gas explosion at the Chenjiashan Coal Mine in Tongchuan, Shanxi Province. The compensation sums initially offered to the bereaved families by the local authorities were dismally inadequate. CLB is currently assisting 13 of the bereaved Chenjiashan miners' families to seek punitive damages from the mining company in the amount of around 1 million yuan per dead miner, and we have obtained the services of a leading Chinese law firm to pursue this case aggressively through the courts. Underlying our strategy in this case is our firm belief that the families affected must be awarded exemplary compensation not only for basic humanitarian reasons, but also because a court ruling to this effect would send a powerful warning signal to coal mine owners throughout the country: miners' lives can no longer be seen as a cheap and easily expendable cost of production, but as something that will cost the mine owners dearly should they knowingly place them at risk through gross negligence of China's own work safety laws.