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Henan Mine Flooding, 16,000 coal mines to be shut

Top Leaders Concerned over Henan Coal Mine Flooding

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday ordered the provincial government of central China's Henan Province to spare no efforts in saving the 42 miners trapped in the flooded Sigou Coal Mine and arresting the runaway owners of the mine.

The flooding accident took place at 11:40 PM Friday in the county of Xin'an.

Seventy-six miners were working under the shaft of the mine and only 34 managed to escape.

Vice Premier Huang Ju and State Councilor Hua Jianmin were also concerned about the trapped miners and ordered a 14-member working team, headed by Liang Jiakun, vice director of the State Administration of Work Safety to coordinate and organize the rescue operation and disaster relief work.

Senior officials in Henan were already at the accident site to supervise the rescue operation.

As of 10:00 PM Saturday, more than 200 rescue workers were racing against the clock to pump out water in an attempt to reach the missing.

The water level underground was remarkably declining, said the rescuers, and the concentration of toxic gas was falling enormously as six water pumps were working.

The rescue headquarters said the water could be pumped up in 21 hours, adding that chances are still there for the survival of the trapped miners.

China will shut down 4,000 small coal mines annually in the forthcoming three years, said Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety Supervision on Saturday.

Zhao made the remark at an on-the-spot meeting specially convened at Dongfeng Coal Mine, run by the Qitaihe branch of the Longmei Mining (Group) Co. Ltd. in Heilongjiang, where a major coal mine explosion took place on Nov. 27, killing 169 miners so far.

"We can at most keep 10,000 or so small coal mines," said Zhao, who also promised to drastically reduce the incidence of major accidents with coal mines in two years.

China now has 24,000 small coal mines with the annual production output ranging from 10,000 tons to 30,000 tons, which account for 70 percent of the country's number of coal mining ventures.

The small coal mines have not only caused grave resource waste, with a low rate of recovery, which is averaged between 10 percent to 15 percent, but also serious pollution and higher incidence of accidents, posing a long-standing problem endangering safety at coal mines in the country, according to Zhao.

Those to be closed will include privately owned coal mines and state owned coal pits, and the methods such as restructuring and mergers will be adopted in the process of closure, said Zhao.

"Closing of small coal mines won't affect the country's demand for coal," said Zhao, adding the country had approved establishment of 13 large coal production bases each capable of turning out over 100 million tons of coal annually.

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