Local authorities accused of 'faltering determination' after spate of fatal accidents The central government has lambasted local authorities for their lack of determination in shutting illegal and dangerous coal mines, and has ordered them to step up their efforts. In an 'urgent directive' posted on the National Development and Reform Commission's website on Friday, the state planning agency lashed out at local authorities' resistance to Beijing's plan to close 5,001 unsafe coal mines last year. 'There has been a lack of correct understanding, faltering determination and ineffective measures regarding the task of shutting down and reorganising [illegal coal mines]. They have been shying away from difficulty and resistance,' the directive said. The central government's drive to reorganise the disaster-prone mining industry was 'seriously lagging behind' because nine provinces, including Hunan , Heilongjiang , Sichuan and Shanxi , had failed to close 30 per cent of the illegal mines reported to the central government, the commission said. Fujian had not closed a single illegal mine, it added. The State Council introduced several high-profile initiatives last year to improve the safety of China's notoriously dangerous mining industry. A rule was introduced in August demanding the closure of thousands of small mines in the next three years and local officials were ordered to cut links with mine operators. More than 9,000 illegal mines have been closed. Operations at a further 12,990 have been suspended, but they will be allowed to reopen if they pass safety checks. Two vice-governors - Shaanxi's Gong Deshun and Guangdong's You Ningfeng - were sacked over coal mine disasters, while 96 officials had been prosecuted over mine accidents and related corruption by the end of last year. But the death toll from mining accidents still accounted for 56 per cent of workplace fatalities last year. Deaths from large accidents in the industry rose 46 per cent last year, according to the State Administration of Work Safety Supervision. Political scientist Xu Youyu , from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said yesterday the delivery of such a wake-up call at the beginning of the year meant more tough measures were on the way, with the central government making mine safety a top priority. He said the commission's directive indicated mining disasters had reached a level that was intolerable to Beijing. 'Despite introducing a number of measures in recent years, we still see frequent coal mining disasters, which have reached a terrifying level. Issuing such a warning at the beginning of the year shows that Beijing will be taking tougher measures to tackle the problem this year,' Professor Xu said. However, high coal prices and the industry's profit potential meant fresh measures would be no more effective than in the past. 'China is so hungry for energy that safe coal produced by safe mines is not enough to quench its thirst. With the price expected to surge in the future, substandard coal mines will continue to exist no matter how the government interferes.' Local resistance would continue to hinder Beijing's drive to curb mining disasters, he added. 'Localism is a very serious problem in China that hinders the effective implementation of central government's policies,' Professor Xu said. 'This is not something that can be tackled in one or two years.'