Wednesday, May 21, 2003

34 miners feared dead in China coalmine accidents, ICEM Calls for Action

Tuesday May 20, 20:48 PM

BEIJING (AFP) - Thirty-four miners are feared dead in two seperate coalmine accidents in north China, the latest in a neverending series of disasters to hit the beleaguered industry.

The State Administration for Work Safety said there was little hope of finding 25 workers after a gas explosion tore apart the Yongtai mine in northern Shanxi province.

Another 33 miners were reported missing after a flood at the Fudong coalmine, also in Shanxi, Monday, but 24 were plucked to safety Tuesday.

"There are 25 miners missing (in Yongtai). The rescue team is in the mine now trying to find them," work safety official An Yuanjie told AFP.

"There is little chance they have survived because it was a big gas explosion."

The blast at the illegal mine happened at 7 am Tuesday (2300 GMT Monday) in Anze county.

An said grave fears were held for another 33 workers in Jinzhong city after a flood at the state-run Fudong mine, which happened 2 pm (0600 GMT) Monday.

ICEM: Action Needed on Chinese Mine Safety

In the wake of a coal mine disaster on 13 May in Anhui Province in eastern China that left 63 miners dead and another 23 missing, the 20-million-member strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Union (ICEM) is calling on the world's mining industry to join with the global trade union federation in forming a "rapid response" team to investigate safety in China's mines.

The ICEM today has written the Chinese government and the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) offering assistance on the basis of a frank and open dialogue.

The 13 May disaster at the state-run Luling mine in Huaibel city, Anhui, is being blamed on a natural gas explosion. The 86 miners were working 500 meters inside the mine. The Luling mine employs 7,000 to 8,000, and produces 2.4 million tons of coal annually.

Figures from China's work safety bureau cite nearly 15,000 deaths occurred last year due to explosions, floods and cave-ins. In the first two months of 2003 alone, official figures cite 1,600 miners as having died in the country's mines. And a rash of accidents this spring has pushed this figure much higher.