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China closes over 10,000 coal mines in past three years (1/7)

China closed 10,412 coal mines in the last three years amid efforts to improve workplace safety and to check extravagant use of natural resources, the country's top industrial safety inspector said.

According to a Xinhua news agency report, Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, said another 1,100 coal mines must be shut soon as the government had ordered the closure of 11,618 coal mines by the end of last November.

He made the remarks at a recent meeting on coal mine development in Beijing.

China, the world's largest coal producer, had been striving to improve work safety in its accident-prone coal mines. But they were still frequent as enforcement was lax and mine owners pushed production beyond safety limits to earn higher profits, according to Xinhua.

In 2006, China produced 2.4 billion tons of coal. Accidents in small mines with an annual capacity below 300,000 tons each, however, claimed 3,431 lives.

The government had set a target of closing about 10,000 small coal mines between August 2005 to mid-2008. Such mines accounted for one-third of China's total coal output but two-thirds of the deaths from colliery accidents.

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