China jails officials over dam collapse cover-up

China has sentenced 13 low-level officials to jail for an iron mine dam collapse just before the Olympic Games opened in Beijing last year, which was hushed up despite killing at least 43 nearby villagers.

The tailings dam, which is used to retain mining waste, collapsed before dawn on August 1 2008, just one week before the Olympic Games opened in Beijing on August 8.

News of the disaster only trickled out weeks later.

The mine in Loufan county, Shanxi province, belonged to a subsidiary of state-owned Taiyuan Iron and Steel Group, or Taigang, China’s flagship stainless steel producer.

The local mine managers and local mine safety officials were sentenced to between 14 months and four years jail. They were charged with responsibility for the accident, and dereliction of duty.

About a month later, a nearly identical collapse of another Shanxi iron mine tailings dam buried 276 villagers.

China’s coal mining industry is the world’s most dangerous, killing about 3 000 people in 2008. Accidents at other types of mines are less common.

China was eager to present a perfect image to the world during the Olympics.

Another scandal, the delibrate tainting of baby formula with the chemical melamine to fool protein tests, was also covered up until after the Games.
At least six babies died and tens of thousands admitted to hospital.—Reuters

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