Final death toll at 21 in Chinese mine disaster

November 3, 2018 JOHN NINNESS

The final death toll from a Chinese mine disaster has been confirmed at 21, following the discovery of two bodies this week. The disaster occurred at a coal mine in Shandong Province south east of Beijing.

There were 334 miners working underground at the Longyun coal mine in Yuncheng County, Shandong, when the incident occurred late at night on October 20. Initial reports said 22 miners were trapped when a rock burst occurred in the mine blocked both ends of the 74-meter drainage tunnel they were building. Only one miner survived.

The Longyun incident is believed to be the most serious coal mine accident in China so far this year. Of the 69 coal mine accidents recorded on China Labour Bulletin’s Work Accident Map in 2018, the previous highest death toll occurred on Aug. 6, when a coal dust and gas explosion at the Zimujia coal mine in the southwestern province of Guizhou killed 13 coal miners and injured seven others. All other accidents involved less than 10 deaths.

Although coal mine safety in China has improved dramatically since the mid-2000s when up to 6,000 coal mine workers died each year, accidents are still commonplace and death rates are still far higher than in developed countries. The number of coal mine deaths in China dropped by 13.2 percent in the first eight months of the year to stand at 211, according to official figures from the Ministry of Emergency Management, while the total number of deaths for 2017 was 375.

As part of the response, the provincial government ordered 41 other coal mines in Shandong to stop production for security checks. However, such checks are often pro-forma affairs and even if problems are uncovered, there is no guarantee they will actually be rectified.

Indeed, it is not uncommon for accidents to occur in businesses that have failed safety checks but refused to address the problem because of the costs involved.

AMSJ has been authorised to repost this article. The piece was first published by China Labour Bulletin and can be found here.

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