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2021-02-18 09:23:17

The eastern Chinese province of Shandong has suspended all mining of minerals other than coal, pending safety inspections, after a fire at a gold mine killed six people on Wednesday.

The province’s Department of Emergency Management ordered comprehensive safety inspections for all non-coal mines by the end of March, leaving “no blind spots” for “hidden risks.” While non-coal mines that pass the safety checks will be allowed to resume operations, those that don’t will be forced to shut down.

Shandong launched the province-wide emergency inspections immediately after a fire at a gold mine in the city of Zhaoyuan killed six people, according to authorities. The blaze is said to have occurred during maintenance work Wednesday morning.

Weeks before the accident, 10 people were confirmed dead from an explosion at a gold mine in the city of Qixia, just over 40 kilometers from the site of Wednesday’s fire. That case, which saw 22 miners trapped underground for two weeks before half were rescued, received wide media attention.

Following the Qixia explosion, Shandong’s provincial government vowed to “learn a lesson,” launching an action plan for a six-month safety inspection of local mines as well as select industries such as transport and hazardous chemicals.

Shandong is a major production hub for mineral resources. In 2017, the production value of its mining industry reached 188 billion yuan (then $23.5 billion), ranking it among the largest in China.

As of January, China has 32,000 non-coal mines, 86.4% of which are small-scale. Most non-coal mines have outdated facilities, substandard operators, and poor safety management, an official from the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety told the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

According to a government report, 294 people died in production safety-related incidents in Shandong between January and June 2020, despite a 31.6% overall decline from last year. Meanwhile, there were 573 mining-related deaths in China last year, 22% fewer than in 2019, according to official figures.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Workers attempt to rescue miners trapped underground following an explosion near Qixia, Shandong province, Jan. 12, 2021. People Visual)