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Coal mine incident kills 21 in China

13 March 2013

A coal and gas outburst killed 21 miners at a colliery in Guizhou Province, Xinhua reported, citing local authorities, adding that 58 more had managed to get to the surface safely. Four others were missing after the March 12 incident at the Machang coal mine, which is part of Guizhou Water & Mining Group subsidiary Gemudi Company.

Jiang Liangquan, head of the rescue team, said the bodies of the 21 who died had been retrieved. He thought the missing four were probably buried under rocks, according to Xinhua, and added that rescue efforts were difficult as the toxic gas density in the shaft remained high.

The mine has an annual output of 450,000 tons.

Meanwhile, search and rescue efforts are still ongoing for 18 miners who remain trapped in a mud and rock flow accident that happened on March 11 in Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China.

The accident at the Zhenxing Coal Mine in Hegang City trapped 25 people and only seven of them have so far been rescued.

China's safety watchdog said on February 26 that it would no longer approve new coal mines that do not meet production capacity requirements in 2013 in order to ensure work safety.

High-gas coal mines with an annual production of less than 300,000 tonnes, as well as coal and gas outburst mines with an annual production of less than 450,000 tonnes, will not be approved, the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said.

In January 2013, the administration put rules into effect that hold coal mine managers accountable for protecting their workers' lives. Managers are required to have proper operation licenses and provide better ventilation.

In 2012, 1,384 people were killed in coal mine accidents, down from 1,973 in 2011, Xinhua said. Most of the accidents occurred in small coal mines.

SAWS is also targeting safety at non-coal mines, and has said it will suspend or shut down operations in over 5,000 non-coal mines that do not meet safety standards this year.

The target is to keep the death toll below 900 in these types of mines in 2013, SAWS said.

The administration said it will order mines to enhance safety measures, improve their emergency response mechanisms and build monitoring systems.

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