Beijing: The Chinese government has decided to close hundreds of small mines over the year to ensure safety in the coal mining industry.
The State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said the country aims to close another 625 small coal mines this year in an attempt to reduce the number of deadly accidents, as the death toll in latest coal mine explosion mounted to 43, raising concerns over safety.
Forty-three workers were killed after the mine in southwest Sichuan province was hit by a blast on Wednesday, trapping about a third of the 154 miners when they were working underground.
Fifty-four were injured, of which the condition of 17 was stated to serious.
Although the mine was licensed, it had been doing production beyond its capacity with more manpower underground than allowed, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Safety monitoring equipment was found inefficient and production has not been halted even after accumulation of high density of gas, investigators said.
A SAWS spokesman, Huang Yi, said earlier that coal mining remains a high-risk industry in the country despite improvements over the past decade.
Yi said studies showed that 35 workers are currently killed in coal mines in China for every 100 million tonnes of coal output in the country, about 10 times the death rate in United States.
Government data showed that 1,973 miners were killed in coal mine accidents in 2011.
Small coal mines, which account for about 85 percent of the nation`s 12,000 mines accounting for one third of the output, caused two thirds of all deaths in the sector due to poor safety provisions, he said.
Yang said China would continue pressing ahead in shutting or merging small coal mines, especially in regions where such mines are concentrated, including Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou.
He said that lessons must be drawn from recent accidents to eliminate potential hazards that also exist in such sectors like non-coal mining, transportation, construction and manufacturing, and the storing of hazardous chemicals, fireworks and explosives.