IndustriALL Global Union has written to the International Labour Organization (ILO) urging it to intervene to improve safety in Chinese coal mines, following the deaths of 86 coal miners in a matter of weeks.
Thirty-two miners were reportedly killed in a gas explosion at a coal mine owned by the Baoma Mining Company in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region on 3 December. Twenty-one miners were killed in a coal mine blast in the city of Qitaihe in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang on 29 November, while a further thirty-three miners were killed in an explosion at a coal mine in the southwestern city of Chongqing on 31 October.
The fatalities come as pressure mounts on coal mines to increase output during wintertime.
In a letter to the ILO’s director general, Guy Ryder, IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
It is clear that the Chinese coal mining industry remains among the world's deadliest because of poor safety standards. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to learn that the Chinese government has apparently ordered that all of its country's coal mines conduct a safety overhaul. In carrying out its major renovation of the working conditions in the coal mines, it is imperative that the Chinese government inter alia, ratify Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines.
IndustriALL is appealing to the ILO to offer immediate technical assistance to China to help improve health and safety standards in the coal mines. In addition, IndustriALL is offering to provide any necessary political and technical support to the Chinese coal miners by sharing the expertise of its affiliated unions in the mining industry from around the world.
Chinese authorities reported 931 coal mining deaths in 2014. This is actually a decrease in the number of deaths recorded in previous years – more than 7,000 coal miners died in 2002 alone. Thousands more die from pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung, caused by long exposure to coal dust. No official figures have been released for 2015 and 2016 as yet, and many mines fail to report fatalities.
It is estimated that 5.8 million workers are employed in the coal industry in China.