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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.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Attempted Cover Up of Coal Mining Deaths

China Mining Tragedy

9 people charged with plotting to burn miners bodies to avoid detection

In what has to be seen as a serious indictment of the culture of the whole Chinese mining industry 9 mine managers have been arrested on what is tantamount to a conspiracy to cover up the deaths of 11 miners.

What is most serious however is that the mine's management allegedly planned to secretly cremate the miner's bodies in an attempt to keep the tragedy from Chinese officials.

The mine's management planned to cover up the accident by reporting that the mine gas explosion on June 3 resulted in the death of only one miner and not the eleven that actually died. Then in a bizarre move they proposed to secretly cremate the bodies of the other 10 and negotiate quietly with the miner's relatives, mainly poor rural families, for a compensation payout requiring an agreement as to their silence.

The motivation for this bizarre plan was fear of the mine being investigated and closed by Chinese Mine officials and the resultant loss of income.

China's coal mining industry is officially responsible for thousands of deaths each year. In 2003 the official tally was 7,200 but many informed observers believe that this is grossly underestimated and may, through deceptions such as this, actually be upwards of 10,000 per annum.

The very fact that this mine's management would even consider such an incredible plan to deceive authorities shows the mindset and culture of an industry were workers safety and their very lives are a secondary consideration to profits and the need to supply China's ever increasing energy demands.

No-one would embark on such an outlandish and macabre plan unless such practices were rife and commonplace in the industry to a point that this mine's management expected to succeed in their ruse.

China's coal mining industry and output is of extreme importance to China. Coal fuels 75% of the nations energy requirements, demand that is growing in double figure percentages each year. On top of this in order to satisfy her agreements with the European Union China is committed to supplying a minimum export quantity of coal to Europe.

All this is expected from an industry already at capacity and where workers rights, their training and work safety levels are almost non existent.

Drawing their workers mainly from the poor, rural unemployed, Chinese private and non State owned coal mining enterprises have virtual free reign over the treatment of their workers. Where there even exists government oversight on mine safety issues it is patchy at best or susceptible to corruption at worse.

The central government whilst aware of the issues chooses to ignore them and has obviously made a conscious decision to trade off human lives for increased production to lessen the energy shortages plaguing China and to satisfy international trade agreements. In other words Beijing has implicity condoned the risks to miner's lives as a "cost of doing business"

As an aside what was the worth of these miners lives to mine management? According to Xinhuanet between 75,000 yuan (9,000 US dollars) to 144,000 yuan (17,000 US dollars) for each miner killed was offered to grieving relatives.

Good work if you can get it!
:: Xinhuanet - English ::