22 miners trapped underground at China mine amid spike in accidents as coal prices rise
Pits have ramped up production across the nation, with fears safety has been compromised
At least twenty-two miners are trapped underground at a coal mine in northern China, state media reported on Wednesday, the latest serious accident to hit the industry in recent weeks.
The number of accidents has risen as mine operators step up production to take advantage of a sharp rally in the price of coal, with suggestions that safety has been compromised.
The latest accident was at a pit at Qitaihe in Heilongjiang province, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Over the past week, accidents include four killed at a small mine in Sichuan province, seven dead in a pit collapse in Jiangxi province and four killed in a mine explosion in Hunan province.
Thirty three miners were reported killed last month after an explosion at a colliery in Chongqing.
Government curbs on coal production as part of efforts to refocus the economy away from heavy industry have led to shortages of the fuel and driven up prices.
Small pits and mines laid idle have resumed production to benefit from the price rally as the need for winter fuel increases demand.
The benchmark thermal coal price in Qinhuangdao, the country’s major coal port, has almost doubled from a year ago to nearly 700 yuan (HK$786) per tonne.
China’s economic planning commission has repeatedly told bosses of state-owned coal mines to ensure stable coal output and supplies to thermal power stations.
The high demand sheds light on the difficulties for China to reduce its reliance on coal, a polluting but cheap fuel.
Thousands of workers at Heilongjiang’s Longmay Group, a debt-ridden coal mining company owned directly by the provincial government, staged street protests in March this year over unpaid wages.
The provincial government has said it plans to close 44 mines that could reduce production capacity by more than 25 million tonnes of coal over the next three to five years.