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Mines to halt work after blasts

By Xu Wei  and Ding Luyang  (China Daily)

09:06, April 03, 2013

Family members of those missing after two explosions in four days at the Babao Coal Mine in Baishan city, Jilin province, wait for news on Tuesday. ZHANG YAO / CHINA NEWS SERVICE

All coal mines in Jilin province were on Tuesday ordered to halt production after two gas blasts in four days killed 36 people.

An explosion at Babao Coal Mine in Baishan's Jiangyuan district killed 29 miners and rescue workers and left 13 injured on Friday night.

A second blast occurred at the mine on Monday morning when rescuers entered it to extinguish a fire. That blast killed seven more rescuers and left another eight injured. Ten remain missing.

Jilin authorities decided to suspend operations at all coal mines for safety checks, according to a joint statement by the State administrations for work safety and coal mine safety.

Wang Shengyu, deputy manager at Tonghua Mining Group, and the general manager and a deputy manager at Babao Coal Mine have been detained by police.

Tonghua Mining is a subsidiary of Jilin Coal Industry Group.

Zhao Xianwen, chairman and general manager of Tonghua Mining, and Wang Li, the company's deputy manager, have been suspended and are under investigation, authorities said.

The joint statement read: "The two incidents show that Jilin Coal Industry Group and Tonghua Mining placed more emphasis on production than work safety, and were ineffective in detecting and handling hazards.

"After the first accident, the company did not take the lessons from the accident seriously and refused to follow orders from the provincial government and the State administration."

At about 8 am on Monday, a mine operator saw smoke pouring from the mine and reported this to the deputy manager, who arranged for a group of miners to put out the blaze.

The statement said the manager made the decision without authorization from the provincial government or the work group sent by the State Administration of Work Safety, and the workers entered the mine without a definite plan on how to handle the emergency.

The search for the 10 missing workers was continuing on Tuesday.

Babao Coal Mine is State-owned with an annual production volume of 1.8 million metric tons, Xinhua News Agency reported. It had been planning to expand its annual capacity to 3 million tons.

The mining company has won a number of awards for work safety and production efficiency at State, provincial and city level.

The State Administration of Work Safety also ordered coal mines nationwide to start checking for potential production hazards and to devise plans for rescue work in emergencies.

Efforts to improve work safety at coal mines have reduced fatalities in recent years.

In 2012, there were 779 coal mine accidents resulting in 1,384 deaths nationwide, down 35.1 percent and 29.9 percent from 2011, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.

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