Beijing: A fire at a Chinese coal mine killed 24 workers early Wednesday, state media reported, the latest fatal incident to hit the accident-prone industry. The blaze at the mine in Liaoning province, in the northeast, also left 52 people injured, the official Xinhua news agency said, quoting the state-owned Fuxin Coal Corporation.
Initial investigation showed that coal dust in a shaft was ignited shortly after a weak earthquake with a magnitude of just 1.6 hit the mine, said the report. Rescue operations had been completed, it added, and production had been suspended for safety checks.
The mine went into operation in 1987 and has an annual production capacity of 1.5 million tonnes, with a total of 4,660 employees, Xinhua said. China’s mines are among the world’s deadliest because of lax regulation, corruption and poor operating procedures. Safety is often neglected by bosses seeking easy profits and accidents are common.
Last year, the country recorded 589 mining-related accidents, which left 1,049 people dead or missing, according to the government. Both the number of accidents and fatalities were down more than 24 percent from 2012.
But labour rights groups have said the actual death toll is likely to be much higher than official data, partly due to under-reporting of accidents as mine bosses seek to limit their economic losses and avoid punishment.
Authorities have sought to shut down small mines, a major source of accidents, in an effort to consolidate the industry. The government plans to close more than 2,000 small coal mines by the end of next year, Xinhua reported in July.
Fuxin Coal is large miner owned by the state, where safety measures are meant to be more strictly implemented, but has seen incidents in the past. In a major accident in February 2005, 214 people were killed and another 30 injured in a gas explosion at another of the company’s mines.
Last year, eight workers died in a gas leak at a separate facility. Multiple coal mine accidents have been reported this year. In June 22 people were killed in an accident at a coal mine in the southwestern city of Chongqing. And 20 people died in April when a coal mine in southwest Yunnan province suddenly flooded, leaving miners trapped.
China is the world’s biggest consumer of coal, relying on the fossil fuel for 65.7 percent of its energy needs last year, Xinhua reported previously.