China to close 5,290 dangerous coal mines

The Chinese government is closing 5,290 coal mines in a safety crackdown on the world’s deadliest mining industry, it was announced today.

The figure is higher than a previously reported estimate of 4,000 mines that would be closed after safety inspections in 2005, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It cited figures released at a conference held by the State Administration of Work Safety.

The government has launched a series of safety campaigns in recent years in an attempt to rein in accidents that kill more than 5,000 Chinese coal miners annually. But death tolls are largely unchanged.

Fires, explosions and other disasters often are blamed on managers who ignore safety rules, sometimes with official collusion, or fail to install required ventilation and other equipment.

Officials said more than 12,000 mines would be inspected in the latest crackdown.

Xinhua didn’t give any details of the size or location of the mines to be closed. But the government says small, unlicensed village mines account for the bulk of China’s fatalities.

The report gave no indication of how the government would enforce the closure of the mines, amid widespread reports that operations closed by safety inspectors often quickly reopen illegally.

The government announced in December it dismissed two deputy provincial governors and was prosecuting 96 officials accused of negligence or colluding with mine managers in six high-profile accidents that killed a total of 528 people over the previous 13 months.

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