Mine Blasts Kill Dozens
On 27 September, a gas explosion in a coal mine in Ningxia took the lives of twenty miners. Similar explosions killed thirty-three miners in the municipality of Chongqing on 31 October, twenty-one miners in Heilongjiang province on 29 November, and thirty-two miners in Inner Mongolia on 3 December. More recently, on 5 December a gas explosion resulted in the deaths of eleven miners in Hubei province. Being the world’s top producer and consumer of coal, China has a tragic history of mine explosions. In recent years, authorities have been swift to crack down on unsafe mining operations. Commenting on the blast in Chongqing municipality, the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety said that despite the fact that the mine operation was fully licensed, it was still unsafe and illegal. In particular, the mine was too deep and the underground facilities did not have adequate ventilation. The State Administration has ordered all Chongqing mines to halt operations and conduct immediate safety inspections. China’s national safety regulator has also warned coal mines not to operate beyond their daily capacities, as rising prices tempt mine owners to increase production. In several cases, safety officials have been fired and mine operators arrested.