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China’s notoriously dangerous coal mines claimed 3,786 lives in 2007, state media report

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    BEIJING — Accidents in China’s notoriously dangerous coal mines killed nearly 3,800 people last year, state media reported Saturday — a toll that is a marked improvement from previous years, but still leaves China’s mines the world’s deadliest.
    A total of 3,786 were killed in mining accidents in 2007 — 20 percent lower than the 2006 toll, indicating the effectiveness of a safety campaign to shut small, illegal mining operations and reduce gas explosions, the Xinhua News Agency quoted the head of China’s government safety watchdog as saying.
    Coal is the lifeblood of China’s booming, energy-hungry economy. The mining industry’s safety, which has never been good, has often suffered as mine owners push to dig up more coal to take advantage of higher prices.
    Chinese mines produced 2.5 billion tons of coal last year, Xinhua said, nearly 8 percent more than in 2006.
    The government safety push, begun two years ago, has reduced the death toll, yet the results mask great disparities among various coal mines.
    Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Workplace Safety, said Saturday at a national meeting that large state-owned mines have safety records on par with mines in India and Poland, while those of small mines are 10 times worse.
    ‘‘We must sufficiently recognize the specific, complex safety problems in our country’s coal mines,’’ Xinhua quoted Li as saying. ‘‘We must not be blindly optimistic and remain sober-minded.’’
    Despite intense pressure on mine owners and the shutdown of smaller mines, China suffered one of its worst accidents in nearly 60 years of communist rule last year — an August flood that drowned 172 miners in a Shandong coal mine.

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