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China Daily Global / 2021-01 / 14 / Page011

Mine accident reporting delay unforgivable

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-01-14 00:00

In mine rescue operations, every second counts. Any delay in reporting a mine accident might be the difference between life and death for any trapped workers.

That is why the government has made it compulsory for operators to report immediately to the safety authorities any accident that occurs, to ensure rescue operations can commence as soon as possible.

Yet despite this, and the laws and rules to hold those who dare do otherwise responsible, officials at a gold mine under construction in Qixia, Shandong province-possibly in a vain attempt at a cover-up-still chose to delay reporting an explosion to the emergency management authorities.

The blast, which trapped 22 workers occurred at 2 pm on Sunday. It was not until 8:48 pm on Monday, after those at the mine failed to conduct any successful rescue, that the mine sought help from emergency authorities.

More than 30 hours had already passed by then.

That delay is outrageous and unforgivable. It is widely acknowledged that the first 72 hours after a disaster are critical.

It is egregious for the mine managers to have ignored the accident reporting rules, and let hour after hour pass without rendering effective assistance to those trapped underground.

The delay is not only a dereliction of duty by the mine managers but also a crime, one that has placed the trapped miners in a more perilous position and greatly complicated the rescue operation.

Now some 300 rescuers are racing against time to save the trapped workers. We hope they are successful.

Yet once the rescue operation is completed, the authorities must make it a priority to find out what was behind the accident, and why there was such a long delay in reporting it.

Whoever is found to be at fault must be duly punished.

The country's mining industry used to be the world's deadliest before an overhaul was launched and a national safety supervision system was established.

This led to a drastic reduction in the number of small mines with poor safety standards two decades ago. Around 220 miners died in coal mine accidents last year, according to the National Mine Safety Administration, down sharply from an annual average of 544 between 2008 and 2013, even though production output increased by three times.

This has not come by easily.

As the Lunar New Year draws near, many enterprises are rushing to meet production goals in an attempt to make up for the losses the novel coronavirus epidemic has inflicted on them. Authorities must be vigilant against any lapse in safety awareness and stand ready to nip hidden dangers in the workplaces in the bud.

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