Friday, June 17, 2011

China Coal Mining: Six dead in Inner Mongolia

CNTV reports that 6 miners died in a mine accident today in China's north west Inner Mongolia.

Once again it shows just how dangerous being a coal miner in China is.

Each year thousands die in search of coal to fuel China's ever growing economy.

But I have just tweeted this story and commented that whilst it is always bad news to hear of deaths it has been a while since the last reports of fatalities and, whilst I did not say it as it would sound rather cold, that is a good thing.

When I started blogging China in the early 2000's every morning you awoke to news of  more deaths in Chinese coal mines. Reports back in say 2004 put estimated Chinese coal mining deaths at 20,000 per year not to mention the many thousands that were injured. It was soul destroying. I used to ask myself, in my naivety, how can the Chinese government let this happen?

A lot of international public scrutiny was brought to bear on the Chinese government through that decade and to their credit they have significantly changed the situation. In 2010 Mining deaths were reported at 2,433  (1) and year to date March figure saw a decrease of 39% on corresponding period 2010. A significant achievement in any ones books.

They have done this by closing down illegal backyard sized mines and mines that could not satisfy safety standards, made coal mine owners responsible legally for deaths in their operations and punished local officials who either were too lazy, or more likely, too corrupt to enforce safety regulations.

The Chinese government has done well and is continuing to bring the death toll down. There will always be deaths in coal mining, no coal mining country is exempt from that but they can be considerably lessened.

But, beyond all this, what I am as equally happy with is that now the Government does not hide deaths in mining. Within 10 odd hours of this accident occurring Chinese English news media were running the story.

Some cynics may say that the accident occurred in Inner Mongolia and the Chinese Government was getting in quick given the recent unrest in that region but I don't think so. This "openness" has been apparent to me for some time now.

Note (1) These are official figures. Actual deaths will be higher due to non reporting and illegal mine operations

Further Reading from me on Coal Miners Rights
6 killed in coal mine accident in N China CCTV News - CNTV English

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