[Marxism] The economics of coal mining disasters in China

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 1 07:46:20 MST 2004


LA Times, December 1, 2004 	
THE WORLD
China Mine Explosion Death Toll Rises to 166
By Mark Magnier, Times Staff Writer

MIAOWANZHEN, China — Zhao Yanmei, 24, sobbed uncontrollably. Gasping for 
air, the baby-faced mother tried to make sense of it all: Why did it 
have to be her husband? Why was he on the night shift again? Why was she 
faced with raising their 3-year-old son without a father?

On Sunday, a gas explosion swept through Chenjiashan mine here in 
Shaanxi province, about 450 miles southwest of Beijing. This morning, 
the official New China News Agency confirmed that 103 miners who were 
trapped as deep as five miles underground were dead, including Zhao's 
32-year-old husband, Ding Aituan.

With 63 confirmed dead earlier, the toll of 166 made this China's worst 
mining disaster in four years.

Since the blast, Zhao regularly had gone to the area in front of the 
state-owned mine complex where hundreds of people gathered in clusters 
to talk quietly, comfort one another and wait for word about missing 
relatives.

She kept hope as long as she could. But she was also realistic. 
Ambulances that raced by Sunday and Monday sat idly by the dusty 
roadside Tuesday. China's record on rescuing trapped miners didn't leave 
much room for optimism.

The country's economy is booming. But much of that prosperity is being 
built on the backs of millions like Ding. Behind the seemingly endless 
supply of consumer goods arriving on Western shelves at two-for-one 
prices are people struggling on survival wages under bleak conditions to 
produce the cheap energy Chinese factories need.

China, which produces 35% of the world's coal, accounts for 80% of coal 
mining fatalities, according to government figures — 4,153 deaths were 
reported in the first nine months of 2004. Experts say corruption, poor 
oversight and the fact that it's often cheaper to pay off a death claim 
than invest in safety equipment contribute to the country's dubious record.

"China needs to do a better job reflecting the real value of life," said 
Hu Xingdou, economics professor with Beijing Science and Technology 
University.

full: 
<http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-mine1dec01,0,1319052.story?coll=la-home-headlines>


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