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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 15:36 GMT
Official raps China mine owners
Miners at Linjiazhuang Coal Mine in north China, where a blast in July left 20 dead
Thousands of Chinese miners die in accidents every year
China's top official for work safety has accused coal mine owners and managers of an "unscrupulous" disregard for safety and the lives of workers.

More than 80 miners have been killed in a series of accidents in recent days.

"How many lives do we have to lose before they learn from the lessons?" Chinese state media quoted the official, Li Yizhong, as saying.

China's mines are among the most dangerous in the world with more than 5,000 deaths reported every year.

Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, was speaking during a teleconference with safety officials around the country.

According to the official China Daily newspaper, Mr Li was so angry he was shouting and pounding the desk.

The recent high frequency of serious accidents was "unprecedented", he said.

Mr Li's outspoken criticism comes after a series of accidents at mines around the country since the weekend.

On Saturday, explosions in two coal mines at opposite ends of China killed at least 53 workers and injured many more.

Safety record

Correspondents say China many accidents are caused by poor safety procedures and a lack of proper equipment.

Mine owners often ignore government regulations in search of greater profits.

Beijing pledged earlier this year to close all small coal mines by 2007, in a bid to improve the industry's safety record.

But coal provides more than two-thirds of China's electricity, and production has been stepped up to meet demand.

Also, as local officials often have shares in the lucrative mines, previous clean-up campaigns have come to nothing.

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24 Aug 06 |  Country profiles


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