Mine collapse in China leaves at least 4 dead and dozens missing

Sylvie Claire / February 24, 2023

The collapse of a mining site in China has left at least four people dead, according to a new count announced Thursday by state media, as the search for dozens of missing people resumed after a pause following a landslide.
 
Workers were buried at around 1 p.m. Wednesday when a 180-meter-high hill collapsed at an open-pit coal mine in western Inner Mongolia, according to CCTV. 
 
Hundreds of rescuers were dispatched to the scene of the tragedy, located in the left banner of Alxa –name of an administrative area in the region.  Rescue operations had been halted after a landslide on Wednesday night, but have since resumed, CCTV reported Thursday, saying the count was now four dead, six injured and 49 missing.
 
The channel aired footage of rescuers in orange jumpsuits and yellow helmets amidst a mountain of rust-colored rubble as well as shovels clearing some of the debris. “We had just returned to work. Around 1:15 p.m., we saw that rocks were starting to fall from the top of the hill. It was getting louder and louder,” a surviving worker, Ma Jianping, told CCTV. “It was decided to evacuate the area. But it was already too late. The whole hill collapsed,” he said, lying on his hospital bed.
 
The injured are all in stable condition, a doctor at the hospital told the station. The cause of the tragedy is not yet known. The Xinjing Coal Mining Company, the operator of the mine site according to CCTV, did not respond to phone calls from AFP on Thursday.
 
The reasons for the collapse are currently being investigated” and “the personnel involved”, a term that probably refers to mine officials, have been arrested, CCTV said, citing the authorities.
 
A video posted on social media — reportedly posted by a truck driver carrying coal — shows rocks cascading down a slope raising clouds of brown dust that engulf several vehicles. “The whole slope collapsed (…) How many people died because of this?” a male voice calls out in the background. “If I had been in line there today, I would have died in there too.” Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday night ordered local authorities to “do everything possible to search and rescue the missing people,” according to CCTV.
 
Alxa’s Left Banner is a sparsely populated area of Inner Mongolia, whose economy is largely based on mining.
Mine safety has improved over the past few decades in the country, as has the reporting of these incidents, many of which were once kept quiet. But accidents still occur regularly, due to the inherent danger of the industry and the sometimes haphazard application of safety procedures.
 
In late December, 40 people were working underground when a gold mine collapsed in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and 22 were rescued. In December 2021, two miners who were trapped in a flooded coal mine in Shanxi (North) died and 20 others were rescued after rescue operations. And in September 2021, 19 miners trapped underground after a coal mine collapsed in the northwestern province of Qinghai were found dead after a long search.

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