Gas explosion at a private coal mine killed 28 miners in Guizhou

23 March 2001

(Broadcast on March 23, 2001)

OnSeptember 27th,
2000, at least 118 miners (and possibly as many as 161) died in an explosion
at the Muchonggou Coal Mine just outside the town of Shuicheng near to
Liupanshui City in Guizhou province. Between mid-February and mid-March
2001, over 100 miners died in Guizhou, mostly as a result of gas explosions.
At least 44 of the fatalities again took place in the region of Liupanshui
City. CLB made a number of calls to mining officials in Pan county,
Liupanshui City to try and find out more about the situation and also
raise the question of compensation. The conversations centred on an explosion
at a privately-owned Xiaohe Mine in Baiguo township, Pan county.

Pan County Coal Mine Bureau (official):
Initial investigations reveal the accident was caused by a coal-truck
collision in the shaft itself. This collision led to a fire.

CLB: Was the concentration of gas
in the shaft too high as a result of inadequate ventilation?

Official: Yes. Some walls collapsed
as well.

CLB: Did this mine have an operating

Official: We are investigating this
question at the moment. The mine underwent a merger last year and this
was not approved. We are deciding if this means it was operating illegally.

CLB also spoke with a deputy chairperson
of the Pan county branch of the All China Federation of Trade Unions
(ACFTU) to discuss compensation.

ACFTU: We are only taking part in
the accident investigation. We have no say over compensation.

CLB: How come?

ACFTU: There is no precedent or regulation
allowing us to take part in negotiations over compensation.

CLB: I thought the trade union was
supposed to represent the workers' interests?

ACFTU: Yes. In the last two years
we have started to take part in accident investigation procedures. This
was not the case before.

CLB: If the relatives of the victims
are not happy with the level of compensation, will the union take a stand?

ACFTU: The people killed were peasants,
not workers. They'll be happy with what they get.

CLB: They were mining coal. It doesn't
matter if the government calls them workers or peasants, the fact is they
were working as miners. Shouldn't the union do its utmost to obtain reasonable

ACFTU: True. But the local government
has already dealt with the matter.

CLB: This doesn't mean the settlement
was fair.

ACFTU: To be honest, the relatives
are not especially displeased with the compensation.

CLB: What do you mean by "not
especially displeased"?

ACFTU: I mean they are basically
satisfied with the compensation.

During the above conversation,
the trade union official told CLB that he had just been transferred
into the job from a position as a local court judge. He did not feel qualified.
We asked him if privately-owned and township and village mines in Pan
county had been organised by the ACFTU?

ACFTU: Not at all. But the County
Party Committee's leadership has just started this work.

CLB: When?

ACFTU: February this year.

CLB: Why do you have to wait for
the Party Committee's guidance. Couldn't this work have been done earlier?

ACFTU: There are lots of reasons.
We have to carry out orders from above.

CLB: Surely the point of a trade
union is to organise workers, not to carry out orders from above.

ACFTU: We do not have the vigour
or capacity to organise like that.

CLB: What do you mean "vigour"??

ACFTU: I can't really explain. I
am new to the job.

CLB: What is the main problem facing
you as a county-level trade union branch?

ACFTU: Not enough people. Conditions
in this area are very difficult with communication being the main problem.
We have to go everywhere by bus and it takes a long time to get anything
sorted out. Things are very difficult in mountainous areas like this and
you just have to get on with the work.


Online: 2001-03-26

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