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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
China miners told to pack bags
A woman breaks down outside a mortuary 3 July 2002 after discovering her husband is one of the victims who died at the Yixingzhai Gold Mine in Fanzhi County on 22 June
Thousands of miners' wives have lost their husbands
About 10,000 gold miners are being given their marching orders in north China's Shanxi province in a move to shut down illegal mines.

Nearly 40 people died in an explosion at a privately-run gold mine in Yixingzhai, Fanzhi county in June.

China's huge mining industry has an appalling safety record with more than 3,000 deaths reported in the past six months alone.

China has ordered illegal mines to close, but this is sometimes not in the interests of local authorities, who rely on a share of the mines' revenue.

However, the local country government in Fanzhi country has shut down hundreds of mines since last weekend and sent thousands of workers home, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

Extra transport

Most of the miners are peasant farmers, who may have travelled a long way in order to make money from lucrative mining jobs. One farm worker who was reluctant to leave told Xinhua he could make more than 1,000 yuan ($120) a month from mining.

A source from the local transport authority told Xinhua it had arranged extra trains and buses to help more than 2,500 migrant workers leave daily. The local government had even sponsored the trip home for those too poor to pay.

However, new illegal mines spring up as fast as the authorities can shut them down. There are big profits to be made out of illegal mining.

Analysts say the government's pledge to jail officials responsible for poor safety may actually lead to more accidents going unreported.

Earlier this week police detained seven people thought to have been involved in an attempt to cover up the explosion at Yixingzhai. After the blast many of the bodies were dumped at various locations several kilometres away.

There have been a series of fresh accidents this week. Nine miners were trapped on following a landslide on Thursday in Zichang country, Shaanxi province, Xinhua reported.

Separately, Xinhua said two bodies had been found at a coal mine in the north-eastern province of Jilin where 39 miners were trapped and feared dead after a gas blast early on Thursday.

Also in Shaanxi, hope was fading fast for 15 miners trapped by another flooding accident on Tuesday, a local newspaper said.

See also:

04 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
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15 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
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