Archive for Coal

Take a Deep Breath

Unless you’re in China:

Poisonous fumes were preventing efforts to rescue 17 Chinese miners trapped underground for three days, according an official and state media.

On Thursday, a gas blast at the coal mine in the northeastern province of Liaoning killed five miners outright, injured another and trapped 17 others.

“At the scene, there is still no way for rescue,” a Liaoning provincial mine safety official, who declined to be named, told AFP.

“The carbon monoxide level is very high,” he said.

Authorities had detained the owner and three managers of the Dahuang Number Two Coal Mine where the accident occurred, Xinhua said. State media said previously that the mine was operating illegally.

China’s mines are known for being among the world’s most deadly due to lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency, and accidents are common as safety is often neglected by bosses seeking quick profits.

Just last month, 15 miners were killed and another three injured when a tramcar derailed in a coal mine in central China.

I’m very sorry for them and their families. But you have to wonder if their days weren’t numbered:

Tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade and big tobacco firms are undermining public efforts that could save millions, a report led by the health campaign group the World Lung Foundation (WLF) said on Wednesday.

In the report, marking the tenth anniversary of its first Tobacco Atlas, the WLF and the American Cancer Society said if current trends continue, a billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure this century – one person every six seconds.

In China, tobacco is already the number one killer – causing 1.2 million deaths a year – and that number is expected to rise to 3.5 million a year by 2030, the report said.

No offense, but isn’t 3.5 million a rounding error in the Chinese population? Don’t they have like a hundred cities of that size no one’s heard of? In any case, whether it’s due to tobacco, carbon monoxide, or just plain soot, breathable air may be China’s rarest commodity.

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Bad to Worse

I suppose there is one thing worse than being a foreign correspondent in China:

The Foreign Correspondents Club in China has issued a warning to members after three employees of European media companies were attacked last week.

The reporters were covering land rights protests in the village of Panhe, in the eastern Zhejiang province.

In one incident, a French reporter had his car rammed and a group of men beat up his Chinese assistant.

In a separate incident, a Dutch correspondent was attacked by men who appeared to be plain-clothes police.

The Chinese authorities say foreign journalists are free to report in the country apart from Tibetan areas, where restrictions apply.

But the BBC’s Martin Patience in Beijing says the attacks show an increased willingness to use violence against foreign journalists.

[T]he greatest threat to reporters is groups of thugs who often appear to be plain-clothes police, our correspondent says.

The authorities almost always insist that the attackers are just “angry villagers”.

What is worse is being Chinese, or at least some of them poor bastards:

Fifteen miners died and another three were injured when a tramcar derailed in a coal mine in central China, authorities said Thursday, in the latest accident to hit the dangerous industry.

Accidents are common in China’s vast coal mining sector where work safety is often neglected by bosses seeking a quick profit.

Latest figures show that 2,433 people died in coal mining accidents in the country in 2010, according to official statistics — a rate of more than six workers per day.

Excuse me, sir? Can you put out that cigarette? NO, DON’T DROP IT!


Straight, Gay, and Bituminous

Enough already with the emails—I hear you!

You want your China coal mine accident year in review, and you shall have it.

First, background:


And 2011?

The Chinese government aims to reduce deaths per million metric tons of coal produced by more than 28 percent in the five years through 2015, according to a circular published earlier this month. The number of people killed in coal mines declined 28 percent to 1,419 in the first nine months of this year compared with a year earlier, Xinhua reported on Oct. 21, citing Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal-Mine Safety.

We’ve been documenting a late-year spurt in accidents, but nothing approaching 1,000 deaths. So, while we don’t have a final tally yet, we are certain that 2011 was a marked improvement over 2010. Way to go, China!

Of course, there are always doubters:

Coal mining has always been dangerous. Scores die each year in mining accidents in the US. But this figure pales besides the estimated 20,000 people a year (according to the film) who perish in accidents in China’s primitive mines. The government’s official numbers are lower, but independent observers like Robin Munro, a human-rights activist at the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin, say that the true toll is routinely under-reported by mine owners and provincial officials who often have a personal financial stake in these lucrative operations and the prosperity they bring to the rural communities where the mines are located.

These mortality statistics do not include deaths from black lung and other pulmonary diseases, which also claim untold tens of thousands of victims per year.

And 2012 is off to an inauspicious start:

Nine workers have been killed and two others are injured after a collapse at a coal mine in southwestern China, local authorities said on Thursday. The accident happened at around 5:20 p.m. local time on Tuesday at a mine in Fuyuan county, which is part of Qujing city in Yunnan province. It happened when a group of workers were clearing residue coal, causing a coal heap to collapse. According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, local officials said that nine miners died while they were being transported to a local hospital. Two other miners were also rushed to a hospital but were said to be in a stable condition. Tuesday`s accident is the second deadliest accident to hit Qujing in the last few months. On November 10, at least 35 miners were killed when methane gas leaked into a shaft at the Sizhuang Coal Mine in Qujing. The gas quickly spread to other parts of the mine, which was operating illegally.

Yeah, but lightning doesn’t strike three times in the same place, right?

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The Red (Chinese) and the Black (Lung)

Aggie’s after me for being too much of a sourpuss this Christmas—a Scrooge, if you like, a Grinch—so I’ll try to report this news with a modicum of holiday cheer.

I found my mind wandering to the alarming number of Chinese coal mining accidents (as I’m sure you do too), and I got curious how things were going lately:

Five killed in NW China coal mine cave-in

The death toll has risen to five with one other in critical condition in a coal mine roof collapse in the northwestern province of Gansu that occurred around midnight Sunday, said the local security monitoring department.

4 dead, 12 injured in SW China coal mine explosion

Four people died and 12 others were injured after a coal mine explosion in southwest China’s Sichuan Province Tuesday night, according to local public security department Wednesday.

The accident occurred at 7:30 p.m. in Xunsi township of Junlian County in Yibin city, causing a three-storey house to collapse, sources with the department said.

Gas blast kills 9 in China coal mine

Nine people were killed by an underground gas explosion in a central China coal mine, rescue workers said.

It was unclear if there were more than nine people in the mine in Hunan province at the time of the Sunday morning explosion, but rescuers were told to stop their efforts, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

One wonders why the miners bother?

Reporting from Shenzhen, China— Residents revolted Tuesday against development plans in yet another town in Guangdong province, redoubling the challenge to the Communist Party in China’s most affluent and open-minded region.

The newest uprising involved as many as 30,000 people protesting plans for a coal-fired power plant in the southern seaside town of Haimen. Residents stormed local government offices and blocked a busy highway that runs from the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen to the city of Shantou.

The catalyst for the demonstration was a plan by local government to build a second coal-fired power plant despite environmental problems caused by a plant that began operations in 2008. Residents said the plant destroyed the area’s fishing industry and contributed to a rise in cancer rates.

“Our homeland was once so beautiful and now it’s so polluted,” said an anonymous letter posted online. “To my 100,000 fellow Haimenese, we need to stand up. Today we are not rioting, but we need to be angry.”

Lin, the protester, said, “The pollution is so bad, we have no way to live here.”

In keeping with my promise to express sentiments appropriate for the season…uh…I mean…well…Merry Christmas, China!

How’d I do?

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Coal Comfort

The year 2011 is going out with a bang in China!

Nineteen miners have been killed and more are trapped underground after an accident at a colliery in south China.

The incident happened early on Thursday at the Sizhuang mine in Yunnan province’s Qujing city.

The mine was hit by a “coal and gas outburst” – the ejection of rock and gas from a coal face, an official said.

Hundreds of firemen, rescue teams and medical staff were at the site, a local government statement said.

The disaster comes days after another mine in Henan province experienced a rock burst, which trapped pit workers. Dozens were rescued but 10 were killed.

China’s mining industry has a terrible safety record, but officials say in recent years the number of deaths and injuries has fallen dramatically.

November is picking up where October left off. Come on, December! Don’t be a wuss!

And if you can’t keep the accidents straight, don’t worry we have it covered—much like the miners themselves!


Welcome to Hell

The next shuttle is boarding now:

A deadly blast at a coal mine in southern China has killed 29 people.

The gas explosion took place at a colliery in Hunan province, Chinese state media reported.

Six miners were being treated in hospital after being rescued from the Xialiuchong Coal Mine, owned by the Hengyang city government.

China’s mines are the deadliest in the world, although the number of miners killed has been falling in recent years.

In 2010, 2,433 people died in coal mine accidents in China, although this was an improvement on the toll of 2,631 a year earlier.

Annual fatalities are about now at about one-third of the high of nearly 7,000 who died in 2002.

I wrote just the other day that I wasn’t going to keep count of the Chinese coal deaths until late December—but 29 is a lot of dead miners. Through September, it looked like they were going to keep their numbers low, but October has turned nasty.

So I got to thinking. While it’s awesome that China is reducing the number of deaths, how do their figures compare to, say, America’s? Coal mining is dangerous no matter where you do it, but can that danger be ameliorated?

China produces maybe a little more than twice the coal than we do, so they get cut a little slack, but the average number of deaths in ALL MINING (not just coal) in the US comes in at the mid-to-high two figures, down about 95% from the dirty 30s and 40s. Our worst years are twice as good as China’s best (though, again, volume explains a lot of that).

I just have to ask how it is that China, which never met a corporate secret it couldn’t steal or a military satellite it couldn’t hack, can’t manage to copy American safety protocols?

Again, we’ll check back in late December to see who’s still around down the mine.

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Black Death

A throwback to our early blogging days:

China says its coal mines have had fewer fatalities and accidents this year compared with the same period in 2010, though its mines are still the world’s most dangerous.

The official Xinhua News Agency on Saturday quoted the top official in charge of coal mine safety as saying that 1,419 miners were killed in the first nine months of the year, 27.6 percent fewer than the same period last year.

Zhao Tiechui told Xinhua that the number of deadly accidents fell 18.7 percent to 892 during the same period.

The report didn’t credit any specific measures for the improvements, though China has cracked down on the smaller, illegal mines blamed for many deaths.

Fatalities in China’s coal mines last year were about one-third of the high of nearly 7,000 in 2002.

Good times.

But 2011 ain’t done yet:

ZHENGZHOU – Seven people have died and 11 others remain missing following a gas explosion early Thursday at a coal mine in central China’s Henan Province.

October can be a bitch if you’re a Chinese coal miner:

All 13 miners trapped in a flooded coal mine in Heilongjiang Province have been confirmed dead, local authorities said Monday.

And counting:

The death toll in a coal mine accident in China’s southwestern Guizhou province rose to 16 late Tuesday, after three more bodies were found, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Oh wait, one more—eight, actually!

CHONGQING, CHINA : At least eight people have been killed and several others remain missing after an explosion ripped through a coal mine in southwestern China, state-run media reported on Monday.


CHONGQING, CHINA : Four more bodies were found on Wednesday after a gas explosion ripped through a coal mine in southwestern China earlier this week, the government said, raising the death toll to 13.

OMG, another one!!!

A gas blast killed 11 people at a coal mine in northern China on Sunday, state media reported, in the latest accident to hit the country’s mining industry.

A total of 21 miners were working underground when the blast struck at the Tianyu coal mine in Tongchuan City, Shaanxi province, a spokesman for the city government was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

Labor rights groups say the actual death toll is likely much higher, partly due to underreporting of accidents as mine bosses seek to limit their economic losses and avoid punishment.

Exactly. And now I’m done with it. If there were any more accidents in October (as all these were, since the nine-month total that began this story), I’m sorry, but they’ll have to die without me. I’ll check back in late in December.

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Burn, Baby, Burn

Wanna see Al Gore’s head explode?

You won’t have to wait long, given that mutated melon’s distorted growth in recent years. But if you want to pop it like a pelvic abscess, just send him this story:

The lull in global warming from 1998 to 2008 was mainly caused by a sharp rise in China’s coal use, a study suggests.

The absence of a temperature rise over that decade is often used by “climate sceptics” as grounds for denying the existence of man-made global warming.

But the new study, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that smog from the extra coal acted to mask greenhouse warming.

China’s coal use doubled 2002-2007, according to US government figures.

Although burning the coal produced more warming carbon dioxide, it also put more tiny sulphate aerosol particles into the atmosphere which cool the planet by reflecting solar energy back into space.

I believe a measured scientific response would be: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don’t like “drill, baby drill”? Fine. Pick, baby, pick!

The researchers conclude that declining solar activity over the period and an overall change from El Nino to La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean also contributed to the temperature plateau.

Declining solar activity? You mean, like, the sun? What’s that got to do with climate?


Stand back, that thing’s going to blow!

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Breathless Laughter

Aggie asks (see post below): “Seriously, could there be any administration dumber than this one? How would it even be possible?”

I answer: they can only out-dumb themselves:

“The challenge with coal is that although it’s very cheap, it’s also dirty. And it can create the kinds of air pollution that not only is contributing to climate change but is also creating asthma for kids nearby,” Obama said in answer to a question about balancing deficit reduction with government spending on clean energy.

That would be news to the NIH, as CNS News notes, which says that there is no known single cause for asthma in children, and suggests a number of other possibilities:

Asthma, however, is not caused by coal, or the emissions from coal-fired power plants, as the president suggested. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the true cause of asthma is unknown, although scientists believe it is caused by a confluence of genetic and environmental factors or early viral infections.

Let me play the role of one of those annoying pissant little Wisconsin liberal readers we get from time to time: “Wull, if you don’t know what causes it, how can you say coal doesn’t? Huh? And why do they call it ‘black’ lung? What’s that all about?”

Besides, Barack, everyone knows asthma is caused by bad humors. Nothing a course of leeches can’t cure.

As a former liberal, I can say this with all sincerity and conviction: liberalism is the political philosophy that holds that a little learning is all you need. Why clutter up your mind with opposing arguments when the obvious solution is so obvious?

Except for an ability to read aloud slightly above average for a politician (but not for a preacher, say, or an actor, or even skilled presenter), Obama is actually quite average. And that’s being generous. He’s not that smart, not that well-spoken, not that honest, not that nice. I don’t think these traits (or lack of better ones) would be noticeable in a community organizer or even a (ahem) law professor. And they are expected of a senator.

But in a president, they give you His Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama.



That’s the sound of my derisive laughter turning into black lung:

China’s ambition to create “green cities” powered by huge wind farms comes with a dirty little secret: Dozens of new coal-fired power plants need to be installed as well.

Part of the reason is that wind power depends on, well, the wind. To safeguard against blackouts when conditions are too calm, officials have turned to coal- fired power as a backup.

China wants renewable energy like wind to meet 15% of its energy needs by 2020, double its share in 2005, as it seeks to rein in emissions that have made its cities among the smoggiest on Earth. But experts say the country’s transmission network currently can’t absorb the rate of growth in renewable- energy output. Last year, as much as 30% of wind-power capacity wasn’t connected to the grid. As a result, more coal is being burned in existing plants, and new thermal capacity is being built to cover this shortfall in renewable energy.

In addition, officials want enough new coal-fired capacity in reserve so that they can meet demand whenever the wind doesn’t blow. This is important because wind is less reliable as an energy source than coal, which fuels two-thirds of China’s electricity output. Wind energy ultimately depends on wind strength and direction, unlike coal, which can be stockpiled at generators in advance.

Further complicating matters is poor connectivity between regional transmission networks, which makes it hard for China to move surplus power in one part of the country to cover shortfalls elsewhere.

China may not be alone in having to ramp up thermal power capacity as it develops wind farms. Any country with a combination of rapidly growing energy demand, an old and inflexible grid, an existing reliance on coal for power, and ambitious renewable energy-expansion plans will likely have a similar dilemma. What marks China out as different is the amount of new coal-fired capacity that needs to be added.

Quick, we need to hold another international gathering of world leaders—how about in Erie, PA this time?—to discuss the perils of greenhouse gases. Maybe we can get China to issue a declaration or something.


Their Mines and Ours

Oh, it’s been too long:

At least 18 people have died in a blast at a warehouse storing explosives and detonators at a coal mine in China.

The explosion was so powerful that it completely destroyed the three-storey warehouse at the mine in Hunan province in central China.

Police are searching for the owners and investigating whether the explosives were bought and stored illegally.

At least 3,200 people died in China’s coal mines last year, making them the deadliest in the world.

Analysts estimate the figure to be much higher.


Besides, look how much better things have gotten:

Some 6,300 died in mining accidents in 2003.

It’s just like the media to distort a fifty percent cut into an obscene number. They can’t fool us here in Bloodthirstan: we’ve been on this story since the rest of the journalistic pack was covering the campaign for third-grade class president.

Let’s take you back to a few of our greatest hits (and theirs):

Sept 2000: Muchonggou mine, Guizhou province – 162 dead
Nov 2004: Chenjiashan mine, Shaanxi province – 166 dead
Feb 2005: Sunjiawan mine, Liaoning province – 210 dead
Nov 2005: Dongfeng mine, Heilongjiang – 171 dead
Aug 2007: Xintai City, Shandong province – 181 dead
Dec 2007: Rui Zhiyuan mine, Shanxi province – 105 dead

We are smiling. It’s just that our teeth are black.

I don’t want to say life is cheap over there, but we go ape when a baby falls down a well. Almost a thousand dead miners in just six major disasters over seven years (and the minor ones add up, too), and does anyone remember? Or care?

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Not How I’d Like to Go

Long-time readers will remember that Chinese coal mining accidents were an early staple of this blog.

Seems like old times:

Chinese authorities say 254 people were killed in a massive mudslide that buried a northern Chinese village.

The death toll rose sharply Saturday after the discovery of more than 70 additional bodies in Shanxi province.

The official Xinhua news agency reported a wall of waste and mud from an illegal mine plowed into a village of about 1,000 people on Monday. The slide buried an outdoor market said to have been packed with people.

Chinese work safety officials blamed the illegal mine for the disaster.

The illegal mine story: we’re more than familiar with it.

Not that the legal mines are much safer:

Five people had been confirmed dead in a gas explosion at a coal mine in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, a local government spokesman said Wednesday.

The accident happened at about 4:40 p.m. Tuesday at the Hengda Coal Mine in Yiliang County of Zhaotong City, leaving one person injured, another missing and four others trapped underground.

On Wednesday afternoon, rescuers recovered the five bodies of the missing and the trapped; 12 workers were poisoned during the rescue operation.

The fully-registered mine has an annual production capacity of 40,000 tonnes.

But these stories are rarer today, thank goodness, replaced lately with stories like this:

Chinese officials said Saturday that 432 babies now have kidney stones after being fed with contaminated baby milk powder, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

One baby in Gansu province has died as a result of kidney stones related to the milk powder, the news agency said.

“It is a severe food safety accident,” senior Chinese health ministry official Gao Qiang told a news conference, in a statement reported by Xinhua.

Testing by Sanlu found tripolycyanamide, also known as melamine, in 700 tons of its product, the news agency reported.

Health experts say ingesting melamine can lead to kidney stones, urinary tract ulcers, and eye and skin irritation.

The chemical is commonly used in coatings and laminates, wood adhesives, fabric coatings, ceiling tiles and flame retardants.

People allowed themselves to be wowed and charmed by China’s can-do attitude during the Olympics. But this is the symbol of modern China to me:

6x8mm kidney stone