China's Shanxi orders 82 coal mines to halt production or construction

BEIJING (Reuters) - Northern China’s Shanxi province ordered 82 coal mines in the first five months of the year to either stop production or construction after uncovering hidden safety dangers at their sites, said two provincial government agencies.

The authorities carried out 2,167 inspections in Shanxi over the January-May period, with 32,612 hidden dangers and 99 major hidden dangers found, said the Shanxi Coal Mine Safety Administration and the provincial emergency management department in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Total fines imposed were nearly 61 million yuan ($8.8 million), according to the statement.

Shanxi is China’s second-biggest coal-producing region after Inner Mongolia, with an output of over 893 million tonnes in 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

At the end of May, Shanxi had 988 coal mines in operation, according to the Shanxi Coal Mine Safety Administration website.

China has been stepping up inspections on its coal mines after a spate of recent accidents, including a mine collapse in neighboring Shaanxi province that killed 21 miners in January.

In May, China’s state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, said it would ramp up closures of small coal mines to boost safety and reduce pollution, and that it plans to cut the number of small coal mines nationally to less than 800 by 2021.

Reporting by Tom Daly and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Tom Hogue