The accident occurred early morning on 10 November, just days after a rock blast at a coal mine in Henan killed ten miners. Around 50 miners were saved during a 40-hour rescue effort at that mine, but a similar massive rescue at the Yunnan mine is unlikely to be so successful. Given the high concentration of gas, officials in charge of the rescue effort have now admitted that the chances of finding any survivors are slim.
The Sizhuang coal mine in Shizong county is in a resource-rich region near the Yunnan/Guizhou border, which has already witnessed several mine disasters this year.
Although, the number of coal mine accidents and deaths in China has declined over the last five years, this has been largely due to the closure of small and unlicensed mines, the restructuring of the industry in the coal heartland of Shanxi, and the development of large modern mines in Inner Mongolia. However, the industry has been less well-managed in other provinces, especially in southwest and central China, where the bulk of this year’s accidents have occurred.
The Sizhuang mine, for example, had been operating without a licence for more than one year after its permit was revoked by the local government. The head of China’s main safety watchdog, Luo Lin, described the mine's safety measures as "very poor" and blamed lax supervision by the local authorities.
According to official statistics, a total of 2,433 coal miners were killed in accidents in 2010, a 7.5 percent drop compared with 2009 when 2,631 miners died.
For more information about coal mining industry in China see CLB’s research report Bone and Blood: The Price of Coal in China or click on the coal tag for the latest news stories and updates.