China's Jiangxi orders small coal mines shut

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BEIJING, Nov 2 (Reuters) Jiangxi province in eastern China has ordered the closure of all coal mines producing less than 30,000 tonnes a year, amid growing domestic and international concern over coal mine accidents, state media reported today.

Jiangxi governor Wu Xinxiong ordered the crackdown after 10 workers were trapped underground when a local coal mine flooded in Nanchang on October 28, a local news agency reported on a state-run web site (www.china.com.cn). One worker was later rescued.

''If you are capable, then go bring in investment, let verdant hills and clear waters be preserved in our hometown, why dig up the riches of our grandchildren?'' Wu told local officials.

The provincial government planned to put aside (2.68 million dollar) in compensation costs for those affected by the order.

''Green ecology is Jiangxi's greatest treasure and our greatest responsibility,'' said Wu.

China's coal industry is the deadliest in the world, with 2,163 miners killed in 1,320 accidents in the first seven months of 2007.

It is trying to shut half of its 23,000 small coal mines by mid-2008, to clamp down on the fatal accidents that happen nearly every day. Mines with less than 30,000 tonnes per year of production account for about one-third of the country's output but two-thirds of mining deaths.

Sixteen trapped Chinese miners were found dead in Jiangxi province on the first day of a major Communist Party congress in October, during which Chinese president Hu Jintao pledged to improve worker safety and reduce major accidents.

REUTERS SZ PM1417

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