22 September 2008
Xinhua is today reporting that:
“The State Council, China’s Cabinet, has sent a team to investigate the landslide that buried dozens of people in the northern Shanxi Province, but was initially played down by local authorities. The landslide toppled a waste dump of a local iron mine and buried Sigou Village in Loufan County in the suburbs of the provincial capital Taiyuan on Aug. 1.”
The landslide was reported to have killed 11 people, but Xinhua notes that the toll may in fact be much higher:
“Eleven dead bodies were found by Aug. 16, and the official death toll ended there. Families complained at least 34 others had been trapped under more than 800,000 cubic meters of rocks and waste from the mine. The emergency rescue headquarters have since dug 122,000 cubic meters of waste to search for more victims, but to no avail. The exact number of people trapped remains unknown because most of them were migrants and were not registered at the local public security bureau, which means their disappearance might not be immediately reported.”
The mining industry in China has a very poor safety record, with over 3,000 annual fatalities. However, it appears that there is also a substantial safety issue associated with the spoil tips and tailings dams. To be fair these problems have affected the mining industry worldwide and in each case have required a strong safety management ethos to be engendered as the industry matures. The fact that China is now reporting these events suggests that they are now getting a grip of this issue, but it will take a considerable amount of effort to deal with all of the problems.