As of yesterday, the “11/27” mining disaster in Heilongjiang Province (far northeast, same province that bore the brunt of the benzene spill) had claimed 162 lives. 73 people still had a chance of survival, and 7 people were still missing. The Beijing newspapers are calling it an “especially serious explosion accident,” and although the investigation is just beginning, it looks like the mining company (Dragon Coal Group) has been seriously negligent.
But the problem clearly doesn’t end with the Dragon Coal Group– fatal mining accidents are far too common in China. The Xin jing bao reports that the “11/27” disaster is the twenty-first mining accident since 1949 to claim more than 100 lives at once. Maybe investigator Li Yi’s final report on the Heilongjiang disaster will galvanize the government to make changes in enforcement of mining regulations. As in many cases, it sounds like it is not that the laws governing mine operations are inadequate, but that companies can ignore them with impunity. That is, until they lose half their workforce to a spectacular disaster.