Mine collapse in China kills five, 48 miners still missing

The mudslide happened at an open-pit mine operated by Xinjing Coal Mining, in Alxa League prefecture. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING – At least five people were killed and 48 others were still missing a day after the collapse of a coal mine in China’s northern region of Inner Mongolia, state media reported on Thursday. 

Rescuers have resumed their search for those unaccounted for after a massive landslide hindered progress overnight, state broadcaster CCTV reported at around midday on Thursday. 

CCTV footage showed rescue workers in orange overalls and yellow helmets, dwarfed by a mountain of rust-coloured rubble, and excavators working to clear some of the debris.

The collapse on Wednesday at an open-pit mine operated by Xinjing Coal Mining in Alxa League prefecture left a pile of debris an estimated 500m wide and 80m high, state media reported. 

“I had just started work at 1.15 in the afternoon when I realised that rocks were falling from the mountain,” a hospitalised miner told CCTV on Thursday. 

“I saw that the situation was getting more and more serious, and an evacuation was organised, but it was too late – the mountain just collapsed.”

Three hundred fire rescue personnel, 60 fire engines and six search and rescue dogs were at the scene on Thursday to help with the search for trapped miners, state media said. 

The National Health Commission said on Wednesday evening that six injured people had been rescued, and it had sent 15 ambulances and 45 medical staff to help the rescue efforts. 

It was not clear what caused the collapse. Calls to Xinjing Coal Mining by AFP went unanswered on Thursday.

CCTV on Thursday said police were investigating the collapse, with “the relevant personnel currently under control”.

The report did not share further details. 

A video posted on social media by a coal truck driver on Wednesday showed rocks cascading down a slope, kicking up clouds of dust that engulfed several vehicles.

“The whole slope has collapsed... How many people must be dead from that?” a man’s voice can be heard saying in the background.

President Xi Jinping on Wednesday ordered search and rescue efforts, state media reported. 

“We must make every possible effort to rescue the missing persons and treat the injured,” Mr Xi said. 

Premier Li Keqiang also demanded a prompt investigation into the cause of the collapse. 

Local governments in several regions, including Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Shaanxi, have ordered coal mining companies, especially those operating open-pit mines, to immediately conduct safety checks and local authorities to carry out inspections following the collapse. 

Coal is a major source of energy in China, but its mines are among the world’s deadliest.

This is largely due to lax enforcement of safety standards, despite repeated government orders for improvements in safety over the years.

China’s mines have also been trying to boost output over the past year under a government call for greater supplies and stable prices.

Inner Mongolia is the country’s top coal-producing region. 

The previously underground mine was converted into an open-pit operation in 2012, according to state media. It had suspended production for three years before restarting in April 2021, state media said. AFP, REUTERS

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