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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 12:13 GMT
Fifty dead in China mining disasters
Coal mine
China's mining industry has a deadly safety record
An explosion at a coal mine in China has killed 25 miners, bringing the death toll from three separate coal mine disasters in two days to at least 50, state media has reported.

The latest blast took place in Wenshan county, in the south-western province of Yunnan, at about midday on Monday.

The accident happened in an unlicensed mine, where 35 men were working - 10 of them were injured and taken to hospital.

Mining accidents are very common in China - more than 5,000 workers were killed last year alone, according to official statistics.

Our correspondent in Beijing says the unofficial figure is thought to be at least double that.

Also on Monday, 18 workers suffocated to death in a coal mine in Hunan province when natural gas started leaking into a mine shaft, Xinhua news agency reported.

The accident happened near Loudi city on Monday night, said an official of the city mine bureau. The mine was properly licensed and had a good safety record, he said.

About 30 men were in the mine at the time, and 12 escaped, the official said.

Death traps

In the third accident, seven workers were killed on Sunday at small mine in Shangli county Jiangxi province that had previously been shut down but was operating illegally, the Xinhua Daily Telegraph reported.

Rescuers at a Chinese coal mine, 2001
Thousands of small mines are running illegally
An eighth person was reported missing.

China's mining industry is one of the world's biggest, and it is by far the most deadly, says our correspondent.

The government has shut down tens of thousands of mines because of appalling safety records, but in many cases, local officials and private entrepreneurs have carried on operating mines illegally.

Last month a manager was sentenced to five years in prison after a blast in his mine killed 11 people.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"It's a depressingly familiar story"
See also:

08 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Criminals blamed for China mine deaths
04 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
China confirms mine disaster
30 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Hundreds feared dead in China mine
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
China reviews pit safety
10 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese mine manager arrested
07 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
China mine blast death toll rises
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's record of neglect
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's deadly mining industry
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