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China jails coal mine managers over deadly gas explosion

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 16, 2010
A Chinese court on Tuesday jailed five coal mine managers over the deaths of 76 miners in an explosion last year, after finding they had ignored high gas levels in the shaft, state media reported.

The court in the central province of Henan convicted four of the executives on charges of endangering public safety, marking the first time mine managers have been found guilty of such a charge, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The blast ripped through the coal mine near the city of Pingdingshan on September 8, 2009, killing 76 miners and injuring another 15, Xinhua said.

A shaft collapse several days before the explosion had destroyed ventilation equipment in the shaft and gas sensors had been disabled on orders from management, the report said.

"The defendants were fully aware of the high level of gas in the pit but still organised large numbers of miners to work underground," Guo Baozhen, a senior court official, was quoted as saying.

Mine manager Li Xinjun was given a two-year suspended death sentence, which is normally reduced to life in jail.

Li was also convicted of forging a university stamp that helped him obtain a mine manager safety certificate, Guo said.

Deputy manager Han Erjun, who was in charge of technical maintenance, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

Hou Min, a deputy manager responsible for safety, was sentenced to life in prison and Deng Shujun, a deputy manager in charge of production, received a 15-year jail term.

The fifth defendant, Yuan Yingzhou, an assistant manager, was sentenced to 13 years in jail for organising illegal and risky operations.

China's mines are notorious for being among the deadliest in the world, with more than 2,600 miners killed in job-related accidents last year, according to official data -- or about seven people a day.

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