At least 15 miners were killed and seven remain missing in two separate flooding incidents over the weekend, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
One of the mines, the Shanfu Mine, in the coal heartland of Shanxi, was operating without a valid production license and the mine’s owner and manager, along with 19 others, were later detained by the local police for allegedly trying to cover-up the accident.
Eleven miners were working in the shaft when it flooded in the early hours of Friday morning. Ten miners are confirmed dead and one is missing.
In a second accident, five miners were killed and six are missing after a mine owned by the Yulongyuantong mining group in the central province of Henan flooded on Saturday afternoon. The authorities said 53 miners were underground at the time and 42 managed to escape.
Also on 16 April, the authorities confirmed that another 12 miners had died during a flood at a privately-run coal mine in the north-eastern province of Jilin ten days earlier. Of the 70 miners working at the time, 58 escaped, Xinhua reported.
Although the number of coal mine accidents and deaths in China has decreased steadily since the mid-2000s, when the death toll averaged a staggering 6,000 per year, there were still 1,973 coal mine deaths in 2011, according to official figures. More than two thirds of those deaths occurred in smaller mines.
In addition, well over a million miners and former miners suffer from the deadly lung disease pneumoconiosis and tens of thousands of new cases are diagnosed each year. Many miners find it difficult or near impossible to get the compensation they are owed because they cannot prove they are or were employed by the mine where they contracted the disease. For more details see CLB’s 2010 research report The Hard Road: Seeking justice for victims of pneumoconiosis in China.