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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Monday, March 29, 2004

They Needed The Job To Live

Detroit News 03/28/04

Mining Tragedies"They all knew the work was dangerous. In the mud-brick village encircling the Baixing coal mine, so many lives had ended already with an explosion deep in a hole that it seemed part of the regular flow of time."

China's coal mining industry kills up to 10,000 miners per year. Most deaths happen in small private mines that operate with little official scrutiny, many operate illegally but are conveniently ignored by graft hungry officials.

China knows it is a huge problem but what can she do? Coal is vital to the economic miracle that is modern China. It is relied on for up to 75% of energy needs. The economy churns forward fueled by the deaths of so many scraping the black deposits from dark and dangerous mine shafts. Last year Premier Wen Jaibao called for strict policies to curb the death toll. Within weeks the nation was in a mess, homes were going without heating as production fell dramatically. It could not be sustained so the "crackdown" was lifted.

The linked article brings a small insight in to the human face of mining deaths.

He had to go to the mine, said Li Guixiang, whose husband, Xi Chuancai, was among the dead. Five months earlier, Xia's older brother died in an explosion at a nearby mine. Another brother lost both legs when a shaft caved in four years ago. Lia's neighbor, Liang Shouhua, sat beside her, mourning the loss of her own husband, the third of three brothers to die in a mining explosion.

If they didnt do this job, they wouldnt have any money for living, Li said. You have to eat.

The coal mining industry can not be shutdown to fix this problem, the nation needs it's output too much. But China has a responsibility to it's workers. The problem will only worsen as production is pushed harder and enormous annual growth rates are demanded by this burgeoning economy.

China has to start throwing some serious money at the problem. It has to develop a strategy were the industry can still function but is gone through with a fine tooth comb. China needs more than just the couple of thousand mine inspectors that it currentl has monitoring 200,000+ sites. It needs to ask for help from the international community to supply experts to assist in bringing down a death rate that is 350 times greater than the U.S, Britain or Australia, other large coal producing countries. It needs perhaps the international mining countries to supply coal on a Lend Lease type of arrangement to take the pressure off demand to allow programmed closedowns and rectification.

It just needs action not words.

Linked Article Read Rating: Worthwhile