Aug 26, 2002
In mid-August, 11 miners were killed in an explosion in a coal mine in northeast China. At least 39 other miners had been killed in a mine in a neighboring province in July and 115 miners were killed in June. In fact, just since January more than 3500 miners have been reported dead in mining accidents by official figures.
The English magazine, The Economist, which reported these figures, said that many more incidents probably go unreported. When 21 miners were trapped in a mining explosion in May, the mine owner tried to prevent news of the accident from leaking out. So many thousands more have undoubtedly died in this enormous industry. Coal mines produce 75% of the energy used in this country of more than a billion people.
The reasons for the deaths are simple: mine safety standards in these thousands of privately owned mines are a disastrous joke. Capitalism functions by cutting back on safety and by keeping local authorities quiet about the situation in which miners daily risk their lives.
A few years ago, the capitalists of the West happily proclaimed the return of "free enterprise" to China. Free for capitalists, perhaps, but deadly for miners.