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More Than 30 Die in Chinese Mine Explosion


At least 33 miners have died in a coal mine explosion in central China's Henan province. This blast is the latest incident to hit China's high-risk coal mining industry.

State media report the blast occurred on Thursday at Xinsheng coal mine in Lushan County. The reports say that rescue teams were sent to the site to search for possible survivors, but give no information on the cause of the explosion.

China's coal mines are the most dangerous in the world. More than 4,000 people died in the first nine months of this year in mine fires, floods and explosions. These accidents are often blamed on negligence or poor equipment.

China's hunger for electricity is pushing up the demand for coal in the country. But the demand has contributed to the operation of illegal, privately owned mines, where accidents most often occur. The director of the China Labor Bulletin in Hong Kong, Han Dong Fang, says mine owners often bribe local officials to be able to keep running.

"These coal mine owners they spent money to buy off the local government officials, they can just issue them the license without a reasonable condition underground, because they have money," said Han Dong Fang.

The central government has repeatedly vowed to enforce safety regulations in the mines. China has jailed several corrupt local officials over the past few years, hoping to tighten control over the mine licensing system, but experts say the effort has been not been enough.

Mr. Han says miners need to know their rights, and should have a union to protect them, but the government is not willing to give them that much control.

"They don't like the idea let [of allowing] the workers go get organize by themselves, especially they don't like the idea to make the workers stronger and stronger," he said. "They don't want to let the workers go and formed their own committee and monitoring their own working condition."

This latest blast follows an accident last month in which more than 140 miners died - one of the worst recorded in the past few years.

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