Web charity campaign spurs government support for miners with black lung in NW China

08:43, January 21, 2011      

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The plight of more than 100 former gold miners with black lung disease in a remote town of northwest China's Gansu Province finally caught the attention of the local government this week, after their story was posted on the web and triggered a charity campaign.

The former miners, some of whom have been ill for nearly 10 years, who contracted black lung, a chronic occupational disease caused by prolonged breathing of mine dust, as a result of inadequate protection, are now unable either to eke out a living or afford medical treatment.

The miners, from Heisongyi Township of Gulang County in Wuwei City, used to work at a gold mine in Subei County in the industrial city of Jiuquan, 1,000 kilometers from their impoverished hometown.

The cases were first exposed in January 2010, when Chinese media published lengthy investigative reports on their plight. The Gulang county government promised to coordinate with Subei county government to settle the miners' medical costs and compensation.

A year later, most of the miners are still dying in poverty and pain.

Towards the end of December, Zhou Junshan, one of the ill miners, posted an entry in his microblog at sina.com, a leading Chinese portal website, to seek help from the public.

"I need help and cannot wait," said Zhou.

In the past four years, 11 of the miners, aged 36 to 50, died of lung failure. Ten of the miners are in critical condition and the health of nearly all the others is worsening.

Zhou's words of agony moved "Beijing chef," a Beijing-based businessman who was willing to only give his online alias.

"I'd take the biggest risk of my life," said Beijing chef in his microblog. "I'm ready to do everything I can to save the miners. Friends, I need your help. Please, with a click of mouse, forward this message to as many people as possible, so that we together can do something for these miners."


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