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19 bodies found in China coal mine explosion
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BEIJING - Nineteen miners died in a coal mine blast in a northeast Chinese province — the latest casualties in another deadly year in the world's most dangerous mines, state-run media said Monday.

An explosion rocked the Shunfa Coal Mine on Saturday and the bodies of the 19 miners were recovered after a two-day rescue operation, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

It was believed the private mine — located in Mudanjiang city, Heilongjiang province — illegally started production even though its license had been suspended, Xinhua said.

Twenty-one miners were working underground at the time of the explosion.

The mine's owner was detained by local police, Xinhua said.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with numerous fires, floods and other disasters occurring every year despite repeated government promises to improve safety.

The government says 4,750 people died in coal mine accidents in 2006 — an average of 13 a day.

A coal mine explosion killed 105 people earlier this month in Shanxi province. Xinhua reported Monday that 19 people were implicated by prosecutors in that accident, including mine owners and managers.

It is common for mine owners to delay reporting accidents or not report them at all.

China, the world's largest coal producer and consumer, has more than 5 million coal miners.

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