by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 5, 2012
A gas blast in a southwest China coal mine left 17 people dead Wednesday, state press said of the latest accident in the dangerous industry.
The explosion occurred at the Shangchang Coal Mine in Yunnan province Wednesday afternoon when 66 miners were in the shaft, Xinhua news agency said.
Forty-nine miners were able to safely escape the mine with their lives, while the other 17 were pronounced dead, the report said.
An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
China is the world's biggest consumer of coal, relying on the fossil fuel for about 70 percent of its growing energy needs.
But its mines are among the deadliest in the world due to lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency. Accidents are common because safety is often neglected by bosses seeking quick profits.
According to the latest official figures, 1,973 people died in coal mining accidents in China in 2011, a 19 percent fall on the previous year.
But labour rights groups say the actual death toll is likely to be much higher, partly due to under-reporting of accidents as mine bosses seek to limit their financial losses and avoid punishment.
Late last month, 23 people were killed in a gas explosion in a coal mine in Guizhou provinces, which borders Yunnan.
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