January 12, 2008 / 11:05 AM / 12 years ago

China says coal mine deaths fall one fifth in 2007

BEIJING, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Deaths from accidents at Chinese coal mines dropped one fifth in 2007 compared with the previous year, though 3,786 people still lost their lives, state media said on Saturday.

That was also a big improvement on 2005, when the death toll was nearer 6,000, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The accident rate was now close to that of Poland’s or India’s for large state-owned mines, it quoted work safety chief Li Yizhong as saying.

But for small mines it was much higher, he added.

"We must not be overly optimistic, and maintain a clear head constantly to prevent a rebound in accidents," Li said.

China, the largest producer and consumer of coal, has been battling to improve safety standards in its mines.

Accidents are common as enforcement is lax and as mine owners push production beyond safety limits to meet robust demand for the fuel on the back of an economic boom. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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