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    After Exposé, Chinese Firm Under Lens for Hiding Mining Deaths

    State-owned outlet China Newsweek reported that a mining company in Shanxi concealed the deaths of at least 17 workers over 15 years. The local government has ordered an investigation.

    Government authorities have launched an investigation into an iron ore mining company in China’s northern Shanxi province, following reports that the company concealed the deaths of at least 17 workers over a span of 15 years. 

    The Jingchen Mining Company in Shanxi’s Dai County is accused of concealing safety-related accidents and failing to report them to the authorities between 2007 and 2022, according to an exposé Thursday by state-owned outlet China Newsweek, which said it had received information about additional hidden deaths at the mining site.

    On Friday, the Xinzhou City government, which administers Dai County, announced that a task force, led by the city’s deputy mayor, would investigate the deaths. 

    The exposé sparked widespread debate on Weibo, the microblogging platform, where many expressed outrage over the deception, while others claimed such practices weren’t rare in the mining business.

    “It’s not a mine, but a dungeon,” one user wrote.

    A prominent mining and production hub for mineral resources, Shanxi boasts a range of 120 minerals. According to an official report, the province’s iron ore production reached nearly 50 million tonnes in 2020.

    According to a government report, Shanxi reported 653 deaths in production safety-related incidents in 2022, marking a 16% decrease from the previous year. Additionally, no “significant accidents” occurred during the same year, referring to catastrophic events causing more than 10 deaths, as outlined in national guidelines. This marked the first time since 2019 that such accidents were absent, as announced by officials in January.

    But the exposé on the Jingchen Mining Company paints a starkly different picture.

    According to China Newsweek, three drivers of the company died from a landslide at the mining site last September, at a time when iron ore mining was suspended across the country following a disaster in 2021.

    The three deaths had triggered massive public attention and eventually prompted an investigation by the Xinzhou City government. 

    However, according to China Newsweek, the Jingchen Mining Company initially intended to hide the deaths, but ultimately failed when relatives of one of the men killed grew dissatisfied with the negotiation process and reported the case to the government. 

    After the incident, four officials from the company were arrested and faced criminal charges, including the accusation of having concealed the accident.

    The report also revealed that prior to the landslide incident, three other workers had lost their lives in two separate smaller accidents. 

    One worker named Wang Zhengping was blown away while welding the air duct on Aug. 8, while two blasters named Wu Peng and Wang Qiao were struck by falling rock in a cave a week before that. China Newsweek stated that it has not yet verified the death of Wang Qiao.

    All three of these cases were settled privately, without being made public, in order to ensure the continuity of operations, according to the exposé. In Wang’s case, his colleague Xia Quan disclosed that the company provided a larger amount of compensation to Wang’s family due to the number of deaths exceeding a certain threshold at the site.

    In the year 2018 alone, the company reportedly concealed the deaths of seven workers in an effort to avoid production rectifications and regulatory fines. 

    Additionally, in 2014, the company provided a false report to the local government, claiming that only one person had been trapped in a landslide incident, despite the fact that four deaths had occurred. 

    Initially, the company had intended to cover up the incident, but the son of one of the deceased miners became a whistleblower and alerted the local police so that a rescue attempt could be made. However, these four deaths were not included in the official verification list.

    Editor: Apurva.  

    (Header image: Trucks stop at the Jingcheng Iron Mine in Dai County, Shanxi province, September 2023. From @中国新闻周刊 on Weibo)