Chinese cave mine that killed 21 was suspended in 2017 to improve safety

A cave-in at a coal mine in northwest China on Saturday has left 21 people dead, state media reported on Sunday.

The incident happened at the Lijiagou mine in Shenmu, Shaanxi province, about 4:30pm when 87 people were working underground, local authorities said.

Although rescuers managed to lift 66 miners to safety, 19 were found dead on Saturday, while two others, initially thought to be missing, were confirmed as fatalities on Sunday, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Footage from the scene showed a large number of rescue vehicles and personnel still at the site on Sunday, while the report said an investigation into the cause of the collapse is under way.

According to a government notice, the Lijiagou mine was granted approval in 2016 to produce 900,000 tonnes of coal a year. But in 2017, following a government campaign, its owner – Baiji Mining Company – was ordered to suspend operations while it “improved safety standards to prevent serious accidents”.

Cave-in at Chinese coal mine kills two, leaves 20 trapped underground

Beijing has spent decades trying to improve working conditions for its coal miners, but the industry remains one of the country’s deadliest.

A total of 375 people died in coal mining accidents in 2017, according to figures from the National Coal Mine Safety Administration, although that figure represented a drop of almost 29 per cent from the year before.

In December, seven miners were killed and three were injured in a mining accident in Chongqing, while a cave-in at a mine in eastern Shandong province in October left 21 people dead.

Four killed and nine missing after blast at Chinese coal mine

Meanwhile, the coal mine safety bureau in neighbouring Shanxi – China’s top coal producing province, said it is planning a six-month safety campaign at all of its “high-risk” mines, Xinhua reported on Sunday.

These include operations that are more than 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) underground, have an increased risk of gas leaks or a high number of workers per shift, it said.

The bureau investigated 3,071 accidents last year, which resulted in 74 mines being ordered to close, 36 told to halt operations and more than 41 million yuan (US$6 million) in fines being issued, Xinhua said.

A separate report by Shanghai Securities News on Friday said that several other mining companies across central, eastern and northeastern China had also been ordered to suspend operations pending half-year safety inspections.

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