Coal Mine Safety in China: Can the Accident Rate be Reduced?

2255 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Friday, December 10, 2004 - 10:00am to 11:30am
Transcript (PDF) (Text)

The CECC staff held another in our series of Issues Roundtables on Friday, December 10, 2004, at 10:00 AM in Room 2255 Rayburn. Entitled "Coal Mine Safety in China: Can the Accident Rate be Reduced?" this Roundtable examined the increase in fatal coal mine accidents in China and assessed the future of mine safety programs there.

All CECC hearings and Issues Roundtables are open to the public and press. We encourage personal staff to attend to participate as representatives of their bosses.

News reports in recent weeks about miners killed and trapped in Chinese coal mines underscore the need for top-level Chinese government attention to coal mine safety. The burgeoning rate of fatalities appears to be the result of heavy demand for energy in China and the growing desperation of farmers driven by poverty to seek jobs underground in small, dangerous mines. Official government statistics tell a grim story of workers injured and killed in coal mines: figures released in June 2004 show that over 6,000 miners died in 2003. An expert at the Chinese Mining University estimates a national rate of 12 fatalities per million tons of coal. As of October 30, 2004, some 4,153 Chinese mine workers lost their lives in 2004.

The Chinese government has some control over safety standards in large state-owed coal mines, but virtually no control over small private mines, where most fatal accidents occur. The Chinese people are increasingly aware of the appalling death and injury toll, but one Chinese expert expressed the view that it would take decades before China reaches the safety levels of the developed world. Given this background, how can foreign countries with advanced safety standards and international institutions such as the International Labor Organization help Chinese authorities improve coal mine safety?


Mr. Dave Feickert, consultant in industrial relations, ergonomics, and energy

Mr. Peter McNestry, British Coal Health Claims Monitoring Group, European Safety and Health Commission for Coal and Other Extractive Industries

Mr. Leo Carey, Executive Director of Government Services, National Safety Council