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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.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

"Serious" Mining Accident

China's Mining Industry I reported in the last couple of days that the Chinese Government had just released a report on industrial and workplace accidents for the first quarter 2004. In that report it was stated that mining accidents and deaths were down on the same period last year despite a sizeable increase in output.

In this report it was stated that there were no "serious" accidents in the first quarter 2004. I took umbrage to this as the report defined "serious" as being accidents involving more than 30 fatalities. In my view any death is serious and I expressed hopes that this description of "serious" was a journalistic one and not official government thinking.

That aside I commented that this result was more good luck than good management. That the mining industry was inherently malaised and that the death rate, which by official sources is around 7,000 per annum (unofficial upwards of 10,000), will only grow exponentially as China pursues it's incredible growth rate and places unbridled demands for more and more coal production to fuel it .

Well they now have got their "serious" accident with Xinhuanet reporting 34 miners killed and two missing in an accident Friday morning in Shanxi Province. No more detailed information is yet available.

I have made mining accidents and deaths a focus of the China Letter because it is the ultimate human rights violation to deny life and that is what the Chinese government is doing in the case of the mining industry.

They are totally aware of the total lack of safety controls in the non government mining sector. Many mines even operate illegally with government officials turning a blind eye either through corruption or government policy.

Premier Wen Jiabao Premier of China (archive photo)In 2003 Premier Wen Jiabao called for an immediate crackdown on the industry to improve safety standards. So great and so immediate however was the fall off in output as regulations were enforced that many Chinese cities and industries faced critical energy shortfalls. In a trade off between human life and economics the government chose the latter and the "crackdown" was called off.

We have the recent case where American Organised Labour (Trade Unions) petitioned the U.S. government to apply sanctions against Chinese export industries under the pretence of protecting the "rights" of Chinese workers that they claimed were working under sweatshop conditions. No such calls have been made by these "altruists" on behalf of Chinese miners as China is not a great exporter of coal and thus do not threaten their jobs.

It is about time that the international community got involved in this human rights tragedy by either applying pressure to China to immediately take action and/or offering assistance in manpower, know-how and money to halt this slaughter.

(I would like to thank Mine Rescue run by Rob Mcgee for a lot of heads up information as to mining accidents in China. His site, which is an adjunct of the United States Mine Rescue Association, reports on mining accident/rescue issues internationally.)