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74 die in Chinese mine blast

Chinese coal miners 
Beijing, China — MININGREVIEW.COM — 23 February 2009 – A weekend blast in a Chinese coal mine killed 74 miners in the country’s Shanxi province, and scores more were rescued after being trapped underground for hours.

Reuters quotes the Xinhua news agency as reporting that 436 miners had been working underground when the accident occurred at the Shanxi Jiaomei Group’s Tunlan mine in Gujiao City, near the provincial capital, Taiyuan.

The report added that most of those underground had been brought to the surface quickly, but at least 60 had been trapped underground. Rescuers said some of the trapped miners had managed to contact their families on their mobile phones. Xinhua said 114 miners were in hospital and five remained in critical condition.

The gas explosion happened the day after senior provincial officials had held a conference about mine safety, in which they pledged to try to put an end to deadly mining accidents.

Reuters reports that China’s mining industry is regarded as the world’s most dangerous, although Xinhua said the Tunlan mine had a good reputation with no accidents having occurred in the past decade.

A total of 3 786 Chinese coal miners died in gas blasts, floods and other accidents in 2007 as companies – often flouting safety regulations – rushed to feed demand from a booming economy. The number of deaths fell to 2 690 in the first 10 months of 2008, after thousands of small, unsafe mines across the country had been closed.  

China is continuing to push for the closure of small mines, many of which are struggling to remain open because demand from the electricity and steel sectors – their main sources of revenue – has slumped in recent months.

The mine where Sunday’s blast took place makes coking coal for the steel industry and can produce 5 million tonnes a year, Xinhua said.