June 20

This Day in History

Disaster

Jun 20, 2002:

Coal mine explosion kills 111 in China

A gas explosion in a Chinese coal mine kills 111 workers on this day in 2002. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this tragic incident is that it was not unique. Poor safety regulations in China have long made mining there an extremely hazardous occupation.

In the first five years of the 21st century, there were five mining disasters in China that killed more than 100 people. On February 14, 2005, a gas explosion killed more than 200 people at the Sunjiawan mine in Liaoning province. Two months earlier, 166 people lost their lives, 141 by poison gas, at the Chenjiashen mine in Shanxi province. And just one month before that disaster, 148 workers were killed at the Daping mine in Henan. In 2004, approximately 6,300 people were killed in Chinese mines.

Most of these disasters are barely reported, even in the Chinese media, so little effort has been made to correct the problem. One recent mining accident in China that did receive coverage was the explosion at Muchonggou coal mine on September 27, 2000. More than 150 miners were trapped deep in the mine by an explosion. Food and water was sent down a long pipe to keep them alive while rescue efforts were made. However, it was to no avail; all the trapped miners died.

In some cases, the mining disasters have come soon after mines were shut down for safety reasons, but continued to operate illegally. In 1990, 56 miners died when a shaft collapsed and flooded in Chenxi. The Xishui mine was closed in November 2004 for safety problems. An explosion in the mine killed 46 workers and collapsed a nearby mine killing 19 more people.

China's worst-ever mining disaster happened in 1942, when 1,549 miners were killed in Manchuria, then under Japanese occupation.

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