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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 06:01 GMT
Life sentences for mine officials
Three people have been sentenced to life in prison by a Chinese court for their roles in a mine explosion that killed 105 people last year.

Twice as many people as permitted were working in the mine at the time of the blast, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The company operating the Xinyao Coal Mine in Shanxi province's Linfen city had also expanded the area of production without authorisation.

The underground explosion on 5 December was caused by a build-up of gas.

Those sentenced to life included the mine's production manager and an investor. The court sentenced 14 others to shorter jail terms for their role in the blast.

"To conceal their illegal operation, the company even built a secret pass between the two coal beds and shut the entry during authorities' inspection," said the Xinhua report.

The company was also fined 185.2m yuan ($26m) for illegal trade in explosives, illegal work on an unapproved coal bed and tax evasion.

The booming demand for coal in China, where an average of 10 miners died each day last year, tempts many mine managers to disregard safety, correspondents say.

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