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All coal mines in north-east China province to close after fatal blasts

03 April 2013

China Daily said on April 2 that all coal mines in Jilin province were ordered to halt production after two gas blasts in four days killed 36 people. An explosion at Babao Coal Mine in Baishan's Jiangyuan district killed 29 miners and rescue workers and left 13 injured on March 29, while a second blast at the same mine on April 2 killed seven more rescuers and injured a further eight.

A further ten miners and rescuers remained missing on April 2.

Jilin authorities decided to suspend operations at all coal mines for safety checks, according to a joint statement by the State administrations for work safety and coal mine safety.

China Daily said three managers at Babao Coal Mine and owner Tonghua Mining Group had been arrested, and two others were suspended and under investigation. Tonghua Mining is a subsidiary of Jilin Coal Industry Group.

The joint statement read: "The two incidents show that Jilin Coal Industry Group and Tonghua Mining placed more emphasis on production than work safety, and were ineffective in detecting and handling hazards.

"After the first accident, the company did not take the lessons from the accident seriously and refused to follow orders from the provincial government and the State administration."

At about 8 am on Monday, a mine operator saw smoke pouring from the mine and reported this to the deputy manager, who arranged for a group of miners to put out the blaze.

The statement said the manager made the decision without authorization from the provincial government or the work group sent by the State Administration of Work Safety, and the workers entered the mine without a definite plan on how to handle the emergency.

Babao Coal Mine is State-owned with an annual production volume of 1.8 million metric tons, Xinhua News Agency reported. It had been planning to expand its annual capacity to 3 million tons.

The mining company has won a number of awards for work safety and production efficiency at State, provincial and city level.

The State Administration of Work Safety also ordered coal mines nationwide to start checking for potential production hazards and to devise plans for rescue work in emergencies.

Efforts to improve work safety at coal mines have reduced fatalities in recent years, according to Xinhua. In 2012, there were 779 coal mine accidents resulting in 1,384 deaths nationwide, down 35.1% and 29.9% from 2011, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.

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