China blast comes after 2002 safety law change

Kansas City Star

China’s worst reported mining disaster since communist rule began in 1949 came three years after officials had promised to overhaul the nation’s workplace safety system.

In October 2002, the government created China’s first safety laws and launched a nationwide effort that included workplace inspectors. Despite those efforts, deadly accidents have continued to plague the country’s coal mines and factories.

Last year more than 6,000 miners died in fires, floods and explosions — an average of about 16 workers per day. The country accounts for 80 percent of the world’s coal mining fatalities.

Experts say the new laws have not been matched with adequate education or enforcement. Many blame China’s demand for coal and its booming economy for tempting mine owners and workers to cut safety corners.

China is the world’s top producer of coal, with 1.9 billion tons extracted last year, 10 percent more than in 2003.

Fuxin is in one of China’s oldest coal mining regions, and many of its mines have been depleted, according to state media reports. Miners must tunnel far underground to reach coal seams, and the risk of explosion due to methane gas is high.

Monday’s disaster was the deadliest reported by the government since the 1949 communist revolution. Until the late 1990s, when the government regularly began announcing statistics on mining deaths, many industrial accidents were never disclosed.

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