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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 14:36 GMT
China press condemns mine deaths

Newspapers in China have called the authorities to account after the latest coal mine disaster resulted in the deaths of at least 146 miners.

Some commentators accuse mining companies of colluding with the authorities to cut corners, after rescuers lost hope of finding more survivors from last Sunday's underground blast at a mine in the northern Heilongjiang province.

One leading daily's columnist points to the exploitation of mine workers, although a business paper says the miners themselves are partly to blame for one of the world's highest levels of mining fatalities.

"Collusion between officials and coal mines, illegal mining and other illegal activities must be tackled to create a safe production environment for miners," says an editorial in Beijing's Xin Jing Bao.

Who is deceiving the central government and common people?
Comment in Zhongguo Qingnian Bao

The paper also calls for miners' unions to be strengthened to allow them "to defend their rights and say no loudly when faced with any unlawful behaviour".

A commentator in the youth paper Zhongguo Qingnian Bao suggests that "underhand activities exist in the 100% pass rate" of coal mines which underwent recent inspections.

"So who is deceiving the central government and deceiving the common people?"

"Without an effective monitoring mechanism, the powers of officials will expand endlessly, and their selfish desires will keep rising. In a situation where there are no punishments, they will abandon their responsibilities, and neglect their duties," Chi Mo warns.

"The public hopes that the higher authorities will carry out a re-inspection of the 100% approval of coal mines."

A commentary in Shanghai's Dongfang Zaobao also points to "the mistakes of supervision and management".

Noting that 2004 was called "the year of mine accidents", the commentary goes on: "Unfortunately, the death figures from a series of shocking mine accidents in 2005 tell us once more that the problem has not yet been solved and mine accidents will still continue."

Much tougher penalties should be introduced
South China Morning Post

"We appeal once again: The government must act to allocate special funds, adopt decisive reforms, and establish standards for mineral resource development and supervision as soon as possible."

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post insists that "much tougher penalties should be introduced".

"One option that should be considered is to greatly increase the financial penalties to be paid by mine owners for each life lost.

"Compensation levels have already been stepped up from around 30,000 yuan ($3715) to 200,000 ($24,770) for each miner killed. But this does not provide owners with a big enough incentive to ensure the safety of their workers."

The real cost of energy

A China Daily columnist asks what forces miners to risk their lives. "The answer is their dire need for money, plus a mindset of risk taking. Most of the miners are farmers-turned-migrant workers. They are so underpaid that they don't want to miss a single shift."

"The government should do something more than imposing safety measures. It is necessary to stipulate standards for minimum wages and social security for coal miners," the columnist adds.

Miners are unwilling to use the safety equipment
Comment in Diyi Caijing Ribao

However, a commentary in the Shanghai business paper Diyi Caijing Ribao quotes one mine boss as saying his mine is equipped with modern safety equipment which some miners are reluctant to use.

"A situation frequently arises where the miners are unwilling to use the safety equipment, which has created a big problem for the management.

"The reason is that once the inspections find that the production quota has exceeded the permitted figures, production must stop, and the workers fear that their productivity will be affected," the commentary says.

"A situation therefore arises of relying on experience to determine the degree of danger, rather than on safety equipment."

The commentary says the latest disaster "reminds our entire society that the price of energy is not straightforward and must include the value of human lives".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

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