Families of 172 drowned miners agree on damages

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 September, 2007, 12:00am

A Shandong mining company has reached initial compensation agreements with the families of 172 miners trapped underground for more than a month, whose deaths were formally declared by the rescue authority yesterday.

Huayuan Coalmine Group has agreed to pay each family about 360,000 yuan, more than the usual 200,000 to 300,000 yuan for similar types of mine accidents.

Families that agree not to recover the bodies would probably get 50,000 to 60,000 yuan more on top, said Qiang Jianguo , the elder brother of one of the victims, Qiang Weiguo .

Floodwaters breached a levy and flooded the mine in Xintai on August 17. Rescuers have been unable to reach the miners and pumps have been unable to empty the mine.

In remarks posted yesterday on the website of the State Administration of Work Safety, its head, Li Yizhong , admitted for the first time that all 172 workers trapped in the mine, plus nine trapped in another nearby, were dead.

Mr Li said the accident had been caused by a 'severe natural disaster', but he had said previously human error could be partly to blame.

Xintai city government propaganda official Lin Xi said yesterday rescue teams had announced the deaths several days ago but had not notified the media.

'Water pumps are still working, but we have made it clear the miners have no chance of survival,' Mr Lin said. He refused to confirm the compensation plan, saying authorities were still working on it.

Rescue experts said more than 10 million cubic metres of water had flowed into the mine. With 10 pumps working at full capacity, it would take more than 100 days to drain it.

Rescue sources said they had not wanted to declare the miners dead earlier this month because doing so would probably slow down pumping efforts. Mine authorities started compensation talks with families about 20 days after the accident because most families by then had accepted their loved ones were not coming back, Mr Qiang said.

The 360,000 yuan per family would have to be shared by parents and spouses, but the government would not be involved in the family distribution.

Victims' children would receive monthly subsidies of 600 to 800 yuan until the age of 18, but spouses and parents would receive no other payments other than the lump sum.

'This plan doesn't work for my family because my brother's wife and my parents need a continuing, not a one-time, subsidy to survive,' Mr Qiang said.

Many families had asked the coal mine and local government to arrange jobs for victims' spouses on top of the compensation but had received no answers so far, Mr Qiang said. They also wanted mine officials to be publicly punished for negligence.

'Compensation is only for the people alive. We want justice brought in for our lost brothers,' Mr Qiang said.

Black mark

The mainland's collieries are the most dangerous in the world. The number of miners killed in 2,845 accidents last year, according to official figures is 4,746