At least 39 dead in two southwest China coal mine disasters

A gas explosion at a coal mine in the south-western province of Guizhou has killed 22 miners, with one still in a critical condition. The explosion at the Xiangshui mine in the coal-rich district of Liupanshui occurred on the morning of 24 November and instantly killed 18 of the 28 miners underground at the time.

Guizhou is rapidly establishing itself as one of the most dangerous coal mining regions of China, with five of the 30 major accidents recorded on the State Administration of Work Safety website since the beginning of 2011 to the end August 2012.

While safety has improved in some other major coal-producing provinces such as Shanxi, very little improvement has been seen in Guizhou. Indeed, this weekend’s accident is an almost exact replica of another accident in Liupanshui ten years ago on 24 July 2002. On that occasion, a gas explosion at the illegally operated Taojiawan mine killed at least 18 of the 25 miners working at the time.

Investigators in the Xiangshui disaster, quoted by the official media, blamed “inadequate measures” to prevent the explosion, echoing comments from Taojiawan miners who told CLB Director Han Dongfang in 2002 that there was no ventilation in the mine and that miners had to descend into the 200 metre pit on foot.

Just over a week later on 5 December, another 17 miners were killed in a gas and coal dust explosion at mine in nearby Fuyuan county in Yunnan.

According to official figures released in October, there have so far been 650 coal mine accidents in China this year killing 1,164 people. In the whole of 2011, there were officially 1,201 accidents and 1,973 deaths in China’s coal mines.

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