BEIJING, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- China, cracking down on illegal coal mines blamed for a large number of deadly disasters, shut down 1,289 of them during the past year, authorities said.
The nationwide effort is designed to end the illegal production of coal, Zhao Tiechui, deputy head of the State Administration of Work Safety, told reporters, China Daily reported Friday.
Demand for coal continues to rise in China to meet the energy appetite of the country's burgeoning economy.
Zhao said a total of 86 people had been arrested on criminal charges related to mine safety.
The death toll from coal mine disasters in the country in the first seven months of 2011 totaled 1,083, resulting from 673 incidents. But the toll was down 31 percent from the same period of last year, Zhao said.
Last year, a spokesman for the safety agency said lax enforcement of safety laws and poor equipment were partly to blame for making Chinese coal mines among the most dangerous in the world.