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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 14:56 GMT
China admits 'grim' safety record
Podi mine rescuers
Thirty-three miners died at the Podi mine on Thursday
A Chinese official has blamed obstructive local officials for hampering government efforts to shut down unsafe coal mines.

The picture is still pretty grim

Safety spokesman Huang Yi
Spokesman for the State Administration of Work Safety, Huang Yi, admitted there were problems implementing government policy at local level, and described safety monitoring as relatively lax.

He said there were still serious accidents and standards of safety in the workplace remained grim.

Rescuers prepare to enter Podi mine, Shanxi province
Safety is too often an afterthought in Chinese mines
Mr Huang's comments came after a week during which more than 50 miners were killed in accidents in the northern Shanxi province.

The government reacted by ordering all small coal mines in the province to stop production for safety checks.

But correspondents say previous shutdowns appear to have achieved little, with many mines reopening in secret.

'Improving safety record'

Mr Huang said there had been 4,500 mining deaths in the first 10 months of the year, compared 5,300 last year.

He said: "Our workforce often is not well-informed about safety requirements. More often than not, they are not aware of how to take safety measures."

But he said China's record was improving on previous years when about 10,000 deaths were recorded annually.

Most miners come from poor rural areas with high unemployment, and are willing to jeopardise their lives to earn a living.

The main causes of mining accidents include lack of training, poor engineering and a lack of basic safety features such as adequate ventilation to disperse coal gas produced while mining.

See also:

16 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Dozens killed in China blast
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
China reviews pit safety
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's deadly mining industry
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's record of neglect
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