Some rare good news came out from China over the weekend after a sadly-too-common accident happened last week- All 53 miners were rescued after being trapped in an underground mine cave-in in Henan. While the cause of the cave-in was a natural event, a minor earthquake; mining accidents happen all the time due to unsafe conditions in China. This time, 8 unfortunately died in the cave-in, 14 miners escaped, but 53 remained trapped, with all but 8 of them being stuck underground for up to 36 hours. It’s good to see that tragedy turned to triumph this time, with the exception of the 8 fatalities. Even still, China has the most mining fatalities in the world with over 2,400 last year, due to both the high number of mines, the fact many mines are underground, and the low level of safety in many mines. The reasons for this include inefficient and shoddily-operated mines, especially as some mines are operated by individuals or small companies who don’t comply with safety regulations, lax and weak oversight by authorities, and corruption, involving corrupt officials and the shady mineowners who often bribe those officials. And all this is bolstered because China has a huge need for energy and coal makes up a large part of its energy resources. That doesn’t mean the authorities aren’t doing anything as there have been crackdowns on illegal mines and trials of corrupt mineowners.
The number of fatalities has plunged though, but it’s still appallingly high, especially when compared with India, another heavy mining country, but which had 35 mining deaths in 2005. Someday, Chinese mining accidents and deaths won’t be as frequent in the news as ferry boat sinkings in Bangladesh or violence in the Middle East, I hope.