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Monday, 19 June, 2000, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Chinese mine scam gang face death
A Chinese gang has been convicted of murdering 14 young miners in order to extort compensation from mine owners.

China factory
China relies heavily on coal to power its economic growth
The China Coal News said 11 members of the gang were sentenced to death in Jinzhou in the north-eastern Liaoning province, and others jailed.

It said the case was the latest in a series in which about 100 miners have been murdered.

The paper said the gangs recruit youngsters to work in China's small, mostly illegal, coal mines.


China's mines
Official figures say 7,400 miners died in 1998
Most deaths caused by gas explosions
China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal
The group would then kill them underground in staged accidents and then pose as relatives to claim compensation from the mine owners.

According to the paper the gang managed to extort 249,000 yuan - about $30,000 - from mine owners and managers by threatening to expose poor safety procedures to the local authorities.

Correspondents say they can get away with it because Chinese mines have a terrible safety record anyway, with thousands of miners being killed in accidents every year.

Cutting corners

With coal providing about 70% of China's energy needs and the country's economic growth continuing to soar there is a strong temptation for unscrupulous managers to cut corners.

Within the past few days China's state media has reported that at least 19 people have been killed in two separate mining accidents in Henan and Szechuan provinces.

In 1998, the last year for which records are available, more than 7,000 miners were killed in work related accidents.

However, that figure is believed by many to be an underestimate with operators reluctant to report accidents for fear of government reprisals.

In addition, the government acknowledges that another 10,000 miners die each year of lung diseases caused by inhaling coal dust in poorly ventilated mineshafts.

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See also:

07 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
China's deadly mining industry
14 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
Blast kills Chinese coal miners
16 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Rescuers reach Chinese miners
22 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese mine blast kills 40
09 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
Entombed miners survive 27 days
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