Coal Mine Accident Death Rate Climbs; Mine Closures Cause Protests in Guangdong Province

November 4, 2005

Chinese coal miners are dying in mining accidents in increasing numbers despite government efforts to close dangerous mines, according to an October 13 Xinhua report. Between January and September, 4,228 coal miners died in mine accidents, compared to 4,153 in the same period in 2004.

At the same time, however, central, provincial, and local governments took steps in 2005 to try to reduce the mining accident rate. In June, the central government ordered all unsafe and illegal mines to close. A government circular listed the categories of mines that should close, such as mines that lack safety measures to prevent coal gas leaks, according to an Agence France Presse report reprinted in TerraDaily. In August, after a disastrous mine flood in Xingning, Guandong province, the Guangdong provincial government announced that it would close 112 mines that lacked production or work safety licenses. According to a September 16 China Daily report, Guangdong provincial officials plan to compensate mine owners for economic losses and also pay miners who are forced to transfer to other jobs. In September, Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Production Safety Supervision and Control (SAPSSC), noted that some mines that had been ordered to close had not complied with the orders, according to a report in Beijing Liaowang dated September 12.

The mine closings in Guangdong province resulted in public protests by coal miners. In late August, over 1,000 miners, mine owners, and villagers demonstrated to protest coal mine closings in Shaoguan, Meijiang, and Xingning cities. The protesters hoped to persuade the central government’s mine disaster investigation team to preserve the livelihood of those connected to coal mines in these areas, according a August 28 report in the Chinese language newspaper Wen Wei Po.

Despite the August protests, the Guangdong provincial government announced in September that all coal mines in the province would be closed permanently, according to a September 16 China Daily report. The Guandong mines produce a small portion of China’s coal, only 8 million tons out of a national production total of 1.9 billion tons.

SAPSSC Director Li predicted that government authorities would close up to one-third of the China’s coal mines by the end of December because of unsafe conditions.