China safety boss angered at mine deaths

China’s top safety official shouted and pounded his desk in anger at mine owners and local officials for “utter disregard for workers’ lives” after a string of deadly mining accidents, state media reported on Tuesday.

Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, became incensed during a teleconference with officials on Monday, the China Daily said.

“How many lives do we have to lose before they learn from the lesson?” the paper quoted Li as shouting.

China has the world’s deadliest coal mining industry with fatal accidents occurring almost daily as safety regulations are ignored and production is pushed beyond safe limits in the rush for profit.

A gas blast killed 24 coal miners in China’s northern province of Shanxi, just a day after 55 died in two separate mining accidents, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday. Li said that local officials should be held accountable for the surge in accidents, citing a gas explosion which killed 32 miners at Changyuan Coal Mine in Fuyuan county in south-western Yunnan province on Saturday.

The administration had ordered the mine’s closure, but local authorities allowed it to continue operating, and closed another small mine which they claimed was Changyuan.

“It is like a story in the ‘Arabian Nights’,” Li was quoted as saying. “It is like replacing a person on the death list with another.”

Li pledged to get tough with coal mine operators that inflate output figures to bypass a closure order for China’s myriad small and often unsafe mines, and promised “severe punishment” for officials and companies found covering up the true state of their mines.

“Don’t let some unscrupulous coal mine owners kill more people in their last frenzy to make profit,” Li said.
- Reuters

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