More Than 50 Missing After Coal Mine Collapses in Northern China
Rescuers in northern China were working on Thursday to save 53 coal miners who were missing after the collapse of an open-pit mine. At least four deaths had been confirmed, local officials and state media said.
Footage released by CCTV, the Chinese state broadcaster, showed what appeared to be the moment of the collapse on Wednesday afternoon. As a stream of workers, seen from a distance, are wending through a narrow basin, a landslide occurs, blanketing the area with rock and sand and obscuring the miners from view.
More than 500 emergency personnel were at the mine in Alxa League, a prefecture in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, by late Wednesday night, state media said. Live coverage on CCTV showed a fleet of trucks taking rescue equipment and food to the site, and workers putting up tents.
Wei Zhiguo, one of the leaders of the rescue effort, told CCTV that there had been a second landslide while emergency personnel were on the scene. “The rescue work is still being carried out in a very intense and orderly manner,” he said.
Six people had been rescued as of Thursday, CCTV reported. Among them was Ma Jianping, who was interviewed by the state broadcaster from a hospital bed. He said he had noticed “gravel falling from the mountain” as he began the day’s work.
“As we saw the situation worsen, we organized an evacuation but couldn’t make it in time,” he said. “Shortly afterward, the whole mountain caved in.”
Hundreds of people die in coal mining accidents in China every year, though the industry’s safety record has improved considerably. Last year, the death toll from such accidents was about 240, down from over 2,600 in 2009, according to data from government agencies. Most of the deaths have been attributed to failure to follow safety protocols, including ventilation requirements.
In 2020, at least 16 people died of carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped in a coal mine in the southwestern city of Chongqing. At least 23 were killed at another mine in the same city a few months later.
Inner Mongolia has long been a key area for coal mining in China. In 2021, to stave off an energy shortage, the central government ordered more than 70 mines in the region to ramp up production, though Chinese leaders committed to phase out coal at a climate summit in Glasgow shortly thereafter. As of 2021, coal accounted for about 56 percent of China’s energy consumption, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Inner Mongolia Xinjing Coal Industry, which operates the coal mine, was incorporated in 1999, according to a Chinese business data platform, Qichacha. No major accidents are known to have occurred at the mine before. Attempts to reach the company by telephone were not immediately successful.