A coal-mine explosion in China on Oct. 29 brought the death toll from known pit accidents in the country this month to almost 100, and may increase demand for imports as some regional production gets curtailed.
Twenty-nine people died in a blast at a mine in Hengyang city in central Hunan province, state broadcaster China Central Television reported on its website yesterday. Deaths from publicly disclosed mining accidents this month total 97, according to figures compiled from state media reports.
China, the world’s biggest user and producer of coal, became a net importer of the fuel for the first time in 2009 as a plan to consolidate thousands of unsafe mines cut domestic output. Recent accidents may prompt local governments to shut some pits and delay the start-up of new or upgraded mines for safety reasons, said David Fang, a director at the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.
“Some production may suffer because of increased safety concerns, especially in the south where a lot of these accidents happened,” Fang said by telephone in Beijing. “That may drive up imports by coastal regions which get some of their supplies from these mining areas.”
Purchases overseas rose to a record 19.1 million metric tons last month as prices outside the country fell. Domestic benchmark prices have risen 4 percent since the beginning of September as utilities started winter stockpiling.
The Chinese government is shutting small, unsafe pits and sacking officials as part of measures to improve the nation’s record of having the world’s deadliest mines. An average of more than six people died in the country’s coal mines every day last year compared with 48 for the entire year in the U.S., the world’s second-biggest producer, government data show.
The nation had its deadliest coal-mine accident in recent years in 2009, when more than 100 were killed in an explosion in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. Last year, a blast in central Henan province killed at least 48 miners.
In an attempt to reduce deaths and improve safety, the government last year ordered supervisors to accompany miners into the pits.
The explosion in Hunan on Oct. 29 was the deadliest this month. In other accidents, 17 were killed in Guizhou, 14 in Henan, 13 in both Chongqing and Heilongjiang and 11 in Shaanxi, according to reports by the official Xinhua News Agency.
The Chinese government set a target to reduce deaths per million metric tons of coal produced by more than 28 percent in the five years through 2015, according to a circular published earlier this month.
The number of people killed in coal mines declined 28 percent to 1,419 in the first nine months of this year compared with a year earlier, Xinhua reported on Oct. 21, citing Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal-Mine Safety.
--Chua Baizhen. Editors: Nerys Avery, Kenneth Wong.
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