[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
China to close 7,000 coal mines
Miners in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in May
China has 24,000 mines, supplying 70% of the nation's energy
China is suspending production at a third of its coal mines, in an effort to reduce the huge number of fatal accidents that blight the industry.

The 7,000 mines affected will need to meet national safety standards before they can reopen, state media report.

More than 3,000 miners have been killed this year alone, in fires, floods and other work-related accidents.

Analysts say the closures may be hard to enforce, as jobs and energy needs can take precedence over safety.

Many of the mines are unlicensed and unregulated, but often when these have been shut down in the past, they have reopened almost immediately, as local officials and mine owners are anxious for their revenue.

Official figures show China has around 24,000 coal mines, meeting about 70% of the country's annual energy demands.

The crackdown comes two days after rescuers called off the search for scores of miners trapped in a flooded pit in southern China since early August.

The death toll from that disaster now stands at 123.

Job losses

The State Administration of Coal Mine Safety has already published a list of 1,324 mines earmarked for closure.

Those in private and small mines will lose their jobs and their families will become poorer
Li Wenge
Coal industry official

About 5,700 others have been told to suspend production by the end of the year.

It is unclear how many miners might lose their jobs, the China Daily newspaper reported.

But Li Wenge, from the Coal Industry Group of Shaanxi province, conceded that a lot of people would be affected.

"Those in private and small mines will lose their jobs and their families will become poorer," he told the China Daily.

But he added that coal supplies were unlikely to be seriously affected by the shutdown, because most the pits being closed were relatively small.

More than 2,700 miners were killed in disasters in the first half of this year, and another 700 died or were missing in the six weeks up to 15 August, Xinhua news agency reported.

Chinese rescue workers stand at the entrance to the Daxing Coal Mine
Authorities in Xingning recently called off a search for 123 miners

But independent estimates say the real figure could be much higher, as mine owners often falsify death counts to avoid closures and fines.

Many of the accidents have been blamed on a lack of fire-control and ventilation equipment, or failure to enforce safety regulations.

Along with shutting mines, the government is also cracking down on collusion between local officials and mine owners, the China Daily said.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why miners are risking their lives in China



SEE ALSO:
China abandons search for miners
29 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China's miners pay for growth
08 Dec 04 |  Business
Life cheap in China's mines
28 Nov 04 |  Asia-Pacific
China acts over mining disaster
23 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China mine 'concealed death toll'
14 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific