Archive for 2.4 Coal and Workers

Learning Lessons from Coal Mine Disasters in Shanxi and West Virginia

On 14 June 2012, the Xiangning County Court in rural Shanxi sentenced nine defendants to jail for their part in the Wangjialing coal mine disaster in which 38 miners died two years earlier. Eight of the defendants were sentenced to three years imprisonment while Jiang Shijie, the head of the construction team deemed most at fault for the flooding disaster, was given a four year jail term. The Shanxi Administration for Coal Mine Safety had earlier fined the mine owner, Huajin Coking Coal Co. Ltd., 2.25 million yuan, while the construction company that was responsible for the digging work that caused the flooding, China Coal First Construction, was fined 2.1 million yuan. The Wangjialing disaster occurred on 28 March 2010. Eight days later, in the afternoon of 5 April 2010, a massive coal dust explosion ripped through the Upper Big Branch Mine in the American coal heartland of West Virginia, killing 29 miners and injuring two others. It was the worst coal mine disaster in the United States for 40 years.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers

CCS in China: Toward an Environmental, Health, and Safety Regulatory Framework

This brief frames how carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) might be regulated within the Chinese environmental policy context, with an emphasis on ensuring protection of people and the environment.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers

Nationalization is Not a Short Cut to Coal Mine Safety

Moves by the authorities in Shanxi, the province at the heart of China’s coal country, to close and merge small privately-run mines with larger state-run mines will only improve coal mine safety if, in addition, the miners themselves are allowed and encouraged to play a key role in safety management and engage in collective bargaining with their bosses over pay and work conditions. Managers at state-owned mines are just as fixated with profits as their counterparts in the private sector and, in most state-owned mines, production is in any case contracted out to private operators. Moreover, managers in state-owned mines are just as ruthless as the owners of small private mines in imposing inequitable compensation agreements on coal mine accident victims and their families. While the closure, merger and nationalization of small private mines may make coal mine safety management more efficient, it can only be the start of the process.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers

Bone and Blood: The Price of Coal in China

The first section of the report focuses on the core dilemma faced by the government: increase production or improve safety. It examines the massive safety deficit that exists in the mining industry and examines the government’s attempts to narrow that deficit. The report suggests that the only effective way to protect the lives and rights of miners is to develop democratically elected and truly representative workers’ organizations that can stand up to the currently overwhelming power of management and safeguard working conditions at the coalface. The second section of the report focuses on the coal mine accident compensation system and the post-accident management and social damage-limitation methods used by local governments. The report uses telephone interviews with the families of coal mine accident victims and industry insiders to reveal the human face of coal mine tragedies. The report concludes with policy proposals and recommendations aimed at reducing the number of coal mine accidents, with a focus on the urgent need to give workers a voice and role in the safety monitoring and supervision process.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers

Problems in China’s Coal Policy—from Liushuipan Coal Bureau chief in Guizhou Province

On July 24, 2002, a gas explosion occurred at the Taojiawan coal mine. The Taojiawan pit is in Yushe village, Shuicheng county, Liupanshui city in Guizhou province. According to official reports, 25 people were working in the pit at the time of whom 18 were killed and seven injured. China Labour Bulletin rang government offices at city, county and township levels to learn more about the accident and also managed to speak about safety conditions with miners injured in the explosion. According to one miner who was in the shaft at the time of the accident but fortunately escaped death, there were 31 miners in the shaft, considerably more than the official count of twenty-five. CLB also spoke with a Mr. Jiang, head of the Liupanshui Coal Bureau who explained some of the problems in China’s coal policy.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers

A Cry for Justice: The Voices of Chinese Workers

The accounts in this book, told in workers’ voices from inside China, are drawn directly from radio interviews by one of the leaders of an independent labour group organized in 1989. It includes information about strikes in the coal sector.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers

I am Proud of my Chinese Colleagues

I am very proud of my Chinese colleagues and the other foreign advisers working to reduce coal mine accidents among China’s five million miners. The number of fatal accidents in coal mines has fallen from a peak of 6,995 in 2002 to a provisional figure for 2008 of around 3,200. This means that thousands more families have their men folk alive, earning a wage which often supports all three generations of a family.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers

Tensions of Transition: the Safety Problems of the Chinese Coal Industry

This study examines the safety problems of the underground coal mining industry in China. It situates these problems in the wider context of sustainable development both for China and globally. Chinese mines have the highest accident rate in the world. However, these accidents are caused by factors that are common to coal mining elsewhere in the world such as gas and coal dust explosions, flooding, falls of ground and machinery accidents. After analysing the dominant role of coal in the Chinese energy economy, the study looks at the accident and ill health statistics that are publicly available. It notes that Chinese government policy on mine safety and compensation is being re-focused on a more intensive problem-solving approach. The tragedies faced by mining communities are huge in their human and economic dimensions. They are now firmly in the international public domain, creating a powerful incentive to act. There is a growing willingness to support Chinese initiatives to improve mine safety and health on the part of international bodies. The contemporary international practice in health and safety, especially in the coal industry, is analysed. It shows that many, but not all, of the problems faced in China have been solve elsewhere. Finally, after examining the specific situation of the small mine sector, where the accident rate is highest, some proposals are made for resolving the safety problems more effectively. These proposals, the study declares, should be implemented within the context of Chinese and global sustainable development.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers

Coal Mining Safety: China’s Achilles’ Heel

This chapter addresses the bleak working conditions in China’s coal mining industry. The paper examines the importance of coal as China’s primary energy source, critically assesses the plausibility of the country’s statistics on coal mining safety and identifies special features of Chinese coal mining. Subsequently, the paper discusses the miners’ social dependence, the government’s failure to reform, the importance of accurate information and the conflict between economic development and social well-being. The paper argues that the coal mining industry places little value on the life of a miner.

2 Coal, 2.4 Coal and Workers