Economic downturn reduces coalmine fatalities

The economic slowdown has dramatically reduced coalmine disaster fatalities, the work safety watchdog said on Friday. The fatality rate for both registered and underground coal pits in China dropped to a record low of 6.4 deaths per day from January to June this year, said Huang Yi, spokesman of the State Administration of Work Safety. The fatality rate stood at 10.4 and 8.8 deaths per day respectively in 2007 and 2008.

“The increase for the nation’s coal production in the first half of this year, which stands at 4.2 percent, has been far lower than recent years,” Huang, also deputy head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, told reporters after a press conference organized by the State Council Information Office.

“And the production in the coming months this year is unlikely to increase too much despite the economic recovery, so there should be fewer disasters at coal mines,” he added.

Coal mine disasters also dropped by more than 20 percent between January and June, causing 1,175 deaths, a year-on-year decrease of 18.4 percent.

However, serious accidents, meaning ones that cause more than 30 fatalities, still rang an alarm for the coal industry, which generates about 80 percent of China’s electricity, the official said.

Thirty miners were killed and 77 injured after excessive explosives triggered a mine explosion about 1,000 m underground on May 30 at the State-owned Tonghua Coal Mine near Chongqing in southwest China. The mine had doubled its production capacity to 600,000 tons per year before the accident.

The fatality rate probably will be a record low this year due to less production, said Huang Shengchu, head of China Coal Information Institute.

“Amid financial difficulty, coal producers can no longer over produce. Less exploitation has resulted in fewer accidents and deaths so far this year,” he told China Daily on Friday.

Huang is concerned that the fatality rate might jump back up next year as China’s economy recovers.

The Chinese economy grew 7.9 percent in the second quarter as a result of the government’s 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus spending.

China’s coal industry, with nearly 5,000 deaths in 2006, used to comprise 80 percent of mining deaths worldwide, official numbers showed.

Authorities have already closed 120,000 illegal coalmines since 2005, and will shut down another 4,000 by 2010.


By Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)

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