China warns of mine disasters as winter nears

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has warned coal mines to pay special attention to safety as they ramp up production to meet winter heating and power demand, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

In the week ending October 28, six colliery accidents left 41 miners dead or missing, the report said, citing a notice from the State Administration of Work safety.

“Malpractice and illegal behavior must be stopped. All accidents must be handled immediately and strictly in line with laws,” it quoted the notice as saying, adding the danger was greatest in the fourth quarter, the peak season for mining.

Beijing has ordered provinces to close small, unlicensed mines, which are where most disasters happen, but rising coal prices on the back of an economic boom have meant some owners have ignored the order.

“The battle to rectify coal production and to meet China’s rapidly surging coal demand will continue to be arduous for the world’s largest coal producer and consumer,” Xinhua said.

China’s coal industry is the deadliest in the world, with 2,163 miners killed in 1,320 accidents in the first seven months of 2007.

President Hu Jintao pledged during a five-yearly Congress last month to improve worker safety and reduce the number of major industrial accidents.