January 26, 2006

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The 411 on China's Coal Mines

The excellent Christian Science Monitor has a compelling article today on China's ghastly mine disasters. While the disasters are terrible, the author, Kathleen McLaughlin, makes a number of good observations to keep the tragedies in context:

Many of the accidents could have been prevented with basic safety procedures. Chinese media are rife with examples of stingy bosses shutting off gas alarms and failing to fix rail cars that toss sparks into combustible air.

So why did US mining deaths garner so much attention while China's deadly mines continue on? Heavy domestic media coverage of Chinese coal-mining disasters, which began in the past five years, may not be helping, Munro speculates.

"If you publicize a problem but do nothing about it, what you produce is compassion fatigue. You get a lot of reports about these disasters, but nothing ever changes," says Munro. "Just publicity by itself is not nearly enough."

Coal-mine safety wasn't always so lopsided on the global scale. The US has had a low fatality record in recent decades, but it recorded an average of more than 2,000 coal-mine deaths annually from 1900-45, and the number of fatalities never dropped below 1,000 in a year until 1946.

posted by HK Dave on 01.26.06 at 07:24 AM in the China economy category.


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