Sun, Aug 05, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Police detain owner of ill-fated Guangxi mine

AFP , BEIJING

Police in China have detained the owner of a mine over a flooding accident which killed at least 70 people and was covered up for nearly half a month, state media reported yesterday.

The main Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily said Li Dongming, owner of the tin mine in southern Guangxi Province, is in custody with his movements restricted as investigators sent by the central government tried to get to the bottom of the case.

Li, a successful and well-connected businessman in the province, apparently had the support of local officials to keep the deadly accident under wraps.

More than 200 miners were trapped when the mine flooded on July 17 after unsuspecting miners knocked down a wall connected to a flooded pit, according to reports.

The People's Daily yesterday confirmed the cause of the accident. "Initial investigations indicate more than 70 people died," it said. It indicated the death toll could be much higher. Rescue workers were still trying to find bodies and survivors, it said.

A five-member team of investigators sent by the central government arrived in Guangxi on Friday to probe the matter, the report said. The team was led by Li Rongrong (李榮融), director of the State Economic and Trade Commission, which is in charge of industrial safety.

The State Administration of Work Safety also sent a team of investigators to the scene.

The Communist Party boss of Guangxi Cao Bochun (曹伯純) has promised to investigate the case and punish those who had been trying to hide the truth.

If more than 200 deaths are confirmed, the accident will be China's worst mining disaster this year in an industry that has an abysmal record, with more than 10,000 deaths each year.

The recent privatization of mines have left them in the hands of entrepreneurs who often overlook safety, such as proper training of miners, to cut costs and maximize profits, labor activists said.

Miners with little training are sent down to the pits, sometimes bringing cigarettes and lighters with them, unaware of the dangers.

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