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Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 15:47 GMT
Chinese mine manager arrested

By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing

Chinese police have arrested the manager of a coalmine in the north-west of the country where an explosion last week is thought to have left more than 40 miners dead.

Chinese mine deaths in 2000
11 Jan - 14 in Jiangsu province
8 Mar - 23 at two mines in Sichuan province
18 Mar - 27 in Heilongjiang province
15 Apr - 40 in Shanxi province
5 Sep - At least 10 in central China
27 Sep - Over 100 in south-west Guizhou province
11 Oct - 25 in north-west Gansu province and 20 in Sichuan province
5 Nov - 30 in Jilin province
3 Dec - Over 40 in Shanxi province
According to state-run media, the manager tried to prevent news of the 3 December explosion getting out.

News of the arrest comes one day after the head of China's coal industry called for action to reduce the number of deaths in mining accidents that this year alone have killed more than 5,000 miners.

The behaviour of managers at the mine in China's north-west Shanxi province is extraordinary, even by the appallingly low standards of China's coal industry.

Following the 3 December explosion, state media says managers ordered survivors of the disaster not to tell anyone about it.

Several journalists who went to investigate the accident were beaten up.

Safety fears

At least 40 miners are thought to have died in the explosion and several more are still missing.

Mine - generic
More than 5,000 miners have died this year alone
But the fact that the mine operator has now been arrested may have more to do with the mine's private ownership than the alleged crimes of its management.

The Chinese Government is under growing pressure to do something about the dreadful state of safety in the country's sprawling and underfunded coal industry.

So far this year accidents have killed more than 5,300 miners.

In the worst accident this year at least 160 miners died when an underground explosion ripped through a state-owned mine in south-west China's Guizhou province.

So far there has been no word of any punishment for the government bureaucrats in charge of running that mine.

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See also:

07 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
China mine blast death toll rises
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's deadly mining industry
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's record of neglect
02 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Porridge lifeline for trapped miners
19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese mine scam gang face death
22 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese mine blast kills 40
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