World News

Flood in new China coal mine traps 123 miners

BEIJING (Reuters) - Rescuers were searching for more than 120 coal miners trapped when a pit under construction in north China’s Shanxi province flooded on Sunday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

About 123 people were trapped in the pit of the Wangjialing coal mine after underground water gushed in, though 138 miners escaped, Xinhua said, quoting provincial work safety officials.

The mine, sitting astride Xiangning county and Hejin city, covers about 180 sq km, Xinhua said, adding that the mining zone holds more than 2.3 billion tons of coal reserves, including nearly 1.04 billion tons of proven reserves.

The mine, affiliated to the state-owned Huajin Coking Coal Co. Ltd., is expected to produce 6 million tons of coal annually once put into operation, the agency said. It is a key project approved by the provincial government.

Strong demand for energy and lax safety standards have made China’s mines the most dangerous in the world, despite the government’s drive to clamp down on tiny, unsafe operations where most accidents occur.

The number of people who have died in Chinese coal mines dropped to 2,631 in 2009, an average of seven a day, from 3,215 in 2008, according to official statistics.

Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim, editing by Tim Pearce