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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 10:27 GMT
China acts on mine safety lapses
An injured miner talks to the press after an explosion at Dongfeng Coal Mine on November 30, 2005 in suburb of Qitaihe City of Heilongjiang Province, northeast China.
It has been a dreadful year for disasters in China
China has taken action against more than 200 officials in connection with six major coal mining accidents.

Ninety-six officials face criminal investigation and 126 others, including two provincial vice-governors, have been punished or sacked.

The six accidents, which took place in the last 13 months, accounted for more than 500 deaths.

The officials were blamed for failing to enforce safety rules or colluding with mine bosses.

"We hope that all coal mines will learn from the bitter lessons these accidents have taught and will strengthen their safety precautions," the official China Daily newspaper quoted Li Yizhong, director of China's industrial safety agency, as saying.

Feb 1950: Yiluo mine, Henan province - 174 dead
May 1960: Laobaidong mine, Shanxi province - 684 dead
Sept 2000: Muchonggou mine, Guizhou province - 162 dead
Nov 2004: Chenjiashan mine, Shaanxi province - 166 dead
Feb 2005: Sunjiawan mine, Liaoning province - 210 dead
Nov 2005: Dongfeng mine, Heilongjiang - 171 dead

China's State Council has decided to "record a demerit" for two former vice governors over their responsibility for two accidents in 2004 - Gong Deshun, former vice-governor of north-western Shaanxi province, and You Ningfeng, vice-governor of southern Guangdong province, the paper said.

It said 124 other officials had been disciplined, while 40 more had been stripped of their posts altogether.

China's mining industry is one of the most dangerous in the world, and there have been several high-profile accidents in recent months, including a blast in Liaoning province in February which killed 210 people and an explosion in Heilongjiang province which left 171 people dead.

More than 6,000 people died in mine accidents in the last year.

China's government has been struggling to clean up the mining industry, announcing repeated safety campaigns.

However, the booming economy has pushed up coal prices, putting mines under pressure to step up production, and mines often operate illegally.

Zhao Tiechui, deputy director of China's mine safety agency, told the Associated Press that the government had created a fund to pay people rewards of up to $1,200 for tip-offs of accidents or safety breaches that mine managers tried to cover up.

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