Chinese Coal Mine Blast Kills 35

The city of Pingdingshan in central China's Henan Province has ordered all 157 coal mine shafts within its district to close, after a mine explosion killed 35 people earlier in the day, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Separately, the Henan provincial government has ordered all mines with annual production capacity up to 300,000 tonnes that had been producing without government permission to halt production, Xinhua said.

Pingdingshan is an important region for coal production in Henan, which ranked No. 3 in coal output in China's provinces. Henan produced 208 million tonnes of coal in 2008, or about 8 percent of China's total output.

It was unclear for how long these mines would be closed, reports Reuters.

The spokesman said 93 miners were working in the pit when the blast occurred and 14 managed to escape. He also said the mine had been under repair and had not been cleared to resume operations.

On Saturday, in remarks reported by the news agency at a coal industry conference, deputy prime minister Zhang Dejiang called for numerous improvements in mine safety to prevent, in particular, gas explosions.

An estimated 80 percent of the 16,000 mines operating in China are illegal, according to the State Administration of Work Safety. Government figures show that about 3,200 people died in mining accidents last year, a 15 percent decrease from 2007, New York Times informs.

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