Chinese mine's owner surrenders three days after explosion

Monday, July 8, 2002

BEIJING -- The owner of a northeastern China coal mine where an explosion trapped 39 workers in a pit last week surrendered to police Sunday after family members pushed him to turn himself in, the official Xinhua News Agency said as rescue efforts continued through a third day.

Meanwhile, in northern China's Shanxi province, site of an explosion in a gold mine June 22, the government turned to DNA analysis Sunday after identifying 15 of 37 bodies found since the blast.

In the northeastern province of Jilin, Chen Xiaoguo, 37, was taken into custody Sunday morning, Xinhua said, quoting Li Shuguo, the mayor of Baishan city.

Chen had been missing since the accident in his Fuqiang mine Thursday, and his absence "caused much inconvenience to the rescue and investigation," Xinhua said. It said his family, which lives in the area, pushed him to go to police.

A man who answered the phone at Baishan city government offices Sunday afternoon said he had no information on Chen or the accident.

The central government said during the weekend that the Fuqiang mine should not have been operating. It should have been shut as part of a government crackdown on small mines, said Zhao Tiechui, deputy director of the State Bureau for the Supervision of Coal Mine Safety.

Rescuers recovered two bodies after going underground through a separate pit and digging through to the area of Thursday's blast. Officials have said the hope of finding survivors was very slim, but nearly 500 rescuers continued their work Sunday night, Xinhua said.

It was unclear how the two miners actually died or what caused the blast.

At the Shanxi gold mine three provinces away, where police have detained at least seven people suspected of hiding dozens of bodies, the local public security bureau said samples from 30 bodies have been sent to Beijing for DNA analysis to help identify them, Xinhua reported Sunday.

Most victims were migrant farmers seeking fortunes in Fanzhi County, which produces about 3,000 pounds of gold each year.

Eight families of dead workers will receive $6,000 each as compensation and an additional $600 to pay for their return home.

Many have been at the site for days as salvage efforts continued.

The Fanzhi County government, trying to increase control, has shut down dozens of illegal mines in the past week and sent thousands of migrant miners home, Xinhua said. It said the local transportation authority had arranged extra trains and buses to send migrants back and paid for trips home for those who couldn't afford it.

More than 3,400 people have died this year in mining accidents in China. The central government, under pressure to boost safety, has promised to shutter mines where deadly accidents occur and punish operators, giving owners an incentive to conceal deaths and evade responsibility.

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