Owner of Chinese mine that collapsed commits suicide: State media

People standing outside the gypsum mine that collapsed in Pingyi, Shandong province, on Dec 25, 2015.
People standing outside the gypsum mine that collapsed in Pingyi, Shandong province, on Dec 25, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - The owner of a Chinese gypsum mine committed suicide on Sunday (Dec 27) after a cave-in that killed one person and left 17 trapped, state media said.

Mr Ma Congbo drowned himself while he was at the scene helping the rescue, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Over 700 rescuers are battling to save the workers after the accident last Friday in the eastern province of Shandong, it said, adding that four had managed to escape and seven more had been pulled out of the mine.

They have drilled a hole to try to get to one of the places where the workers are trapped, and are attempting to bring food and water to them.

Mr Ma was the chairman of Yurong, the company that owned the mine.

Accidents in Chinese coal mines killed 931 people last year, according to government data, while figures for all mining accidents were unavailable.

China, the world's largest producer of coal, says the number of fatalities is declining. But some rights groups argue the actual figures are significantly higher due to under-reporting.

Anger about industrial safety standards is growing after scores of deaths this year, including this month's landslide in the southern commercial hub of Shenzhen and a chemical blast in the industrial city of Tianjin in August.

The cause of the gypsum mine collapse is under investigation, Xinhua said.