A coal-mining accident in northern Gansu province yesterday left 20 miners dead and 14 injured, state media said.
The cable controlling a train taking workers into the mine in Baiyin city near Lanzhou snapped, sending the 34 miners plummeting into the pit, Xinhua reported.
Rescuers retrieved all the miners and the injured had been transported to hospital, including three who were in a serious condition, it said.
Xinhua quoted company staff as saying the cable that snapped was replaced on July 29, but an initial investigation suggested the carriages were overloaded.
Officials at the Baiyin city work-safety administration, which oversees the Qusheng mine, refused to comment.
The coal mine, run by Qusheng Coal Mining, was operating illegally, as it was one of the 55 mines safety authorities had ordered to halt production for an industrial reshuffle.
The planned reshuffle was aimed at incorporating the 55 small mines into 10 larger ones.
The Qusheng pit began operation in 2003 and has a planned annual output of 90,000 tonnes.
Xinhua said the provincial government of Gansu had demanded a temporary shutdown of all mines with annual output below 300,000 tonnes for a safety overhaul after the accident.
China's mines are among the deadliest in the world because of lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency. Accidents are common because safety is often neglected by bosses seeking quick profits.
Yesterday's accident followed a gas explosion at a colliery in Sichuan province last month that killed 43 miners.
According to the latest official figures, 1,973 people died in mainland coal-mining accidents last year, a 19 per cent decrease on the previous year.
Additional reporting by Staff Reporter