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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 07:58 GMT
China orders bosses down mines
Chinese rescue workers stand at the entrance to the Daxing Coal Mine
China's mines are the deadliest in the world
China's authorities have ordered that coal miners should always be accompanied underground by at least one manager, the Beijing News has reported.

The move is part of a renewed effort to improve standards in China's mining industry, which has the world's worst safety record.

Officials said the manager's job would be to discover any potential dangers before they lead to an accident.

At least 23 people died over the weekend in mining accidents in China.

More than 3,000 miners are reported to have been killed this year alone - in fires, floods and other work-related accidents - and analysts fear the actual annual casualty figure could be much higher.

Government crackdown

The government has recently begun a drive to improve safety standards in China's mines, many of which are unlicensed.

The authorities have also been pressing local officials to give up their shares in mines, since the conflict of interest has sometimes led to profit being put ahead of safety.

A number of local officials have been sacked for negligence in recent months, and in August the country announced it was suspending production at a third of its coal mines until safety standards improved.

But despite these measures, accidents still happen regularly in mines across the country.

On Sunday, a gas explosion killed at least 18 workers at a gypsum mine in Xingtai city, Hebei province.

Rescuers are still searching for 20 workers believed to be trapped when the mine collapsed, according to Xinhua news agency.

Another 15 people are confirmed to have died at the Taiping coal mine in the northern province of Shanxi, Xinhua said.

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