China boosts coal imports following improved mining safety

Oct. 5, 2009 at 4:15 PM
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BEIJING, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- China is making efforts to improve coal-mining safety, which is forcing the country to boost imports.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday that more than 250,000 China miners have died in coalmine accidents since 1949. Shanxi province has produced far more coal and suffered more coalmining deaths than anywhere else in China. The issue of mining safety is a sensitive one with the Chinese government; the country's worst mining accident occurred in 1960 when 682 people died, with the incident classified as a state secret and not revealed until 28 years later. In the past 10 years the Chinese government has repeatedly launched mine-safety campaigns, but their effectiveness has been diminished by corruption and cronyism.

In the wake of another mining accident in Shanxi province last year, provincial governor Meng Xuelong was fired and replaced with Wang Jun, then director of the State Administration of Work Safety. Wang reordered the province's priorities reducing mine deaths but also cut Shanxi's coal production and impacted its economy.

Shanxi's coal shortfall offered an opportunity for Australian coal exporters for the first time in history, reflected in export statistics. For the period January-July, Australia's coal exports to China reached 8.8 million tons, up 986 percent from the same period in 2008.

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