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Reflections on Chinese Coal Mine Accidents

In the past two years, there has been a clear rebound trend in coal mine accidents across the country, which has become a general consensus in the industry. The press conference held by the State Mine Safety Supervision Bureau on July 25, 2023 also pointed out that since 2023, the number of mine accidents nationwide has dropped by 13%. The total number of accidents in non-coal mines has continued to decline, but coal mine accidents have rebounded. However, there has been no official data to intuitively reflect this situation.   On February 29, 2024, the “Statistical Bulletin of the National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China in 2023” released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that a total of 21,242 people died in various production safety accidents nationwide in 2023, a decrease of 4.7% from the previous year; but coal mines The number of deaths per million tons was 0.094, an increase of 23.7%.  

In fact, the trend of rebound in coal mine accidents has already begun to take shape in 2022. Data previously released by the China Coal Association shows that in the past ten years, my country’s coal mines have achieved “four significant decreases” in the total number of accidents, major and major accidents, the number of fatalities, and the death rate per million tons. Since 2018, the mortality rate per million tons of coal mines in my country has dropped to less than 0.1, reaching the lowest point of 0.044 in 2021. However, this number rebounded slightly in 2022, rising to 0.054. That year, 168 coal mine safety accidents occurred, killing 245 people.  

Obviously, after entering 2023, the rebound trend will become more obvious. The “23.7% increase” estimate is also calculated based on revised data, which means that the death toll per million tons in 2022 may be much higher than 0.054. If we extrapolate from 0.094 in 2023, the death toll per million tons in 2022 will be 0.071. The press conference held by the State Administration of Mine Safety on July 25, 2023 also introduced that since 2023, the State Administration of Mine Safety has deployed in mines across the country to carry out the 2023 special investigation and rectification of major accident hazards and the comprehensive rectification of mine safety production.

As of the time of the press conference, all 3,110 coal mines included in the remediation scope have completed self-examination and self-correction of hidden dangers. More than 213,000 hidden problems and hazards have been discovered, including 1,817 major accident hazards, and 98,000 safety risk management and control measures have been formulated.   In other words, on average, 68 hidden dangers are discovered in one coal mine, and there is at least one major hidden danger in two coal mines. It can be seen that loopholes in coal mine safety production are almost everywhere.  

Judging from the occurrence of coal mine accidents, in recent years, the types of accidents that are prone to occur in coal mine production have changed with the advancement of coal mining technology. From the perspective of major accidents, the accidents with more occurrences or larger casualties are still gas accidents, including coal and gas outbursts and gas explosions, followed by coal mine fires, roof collapses and water inrush accidents. Judging from general accidents and larger accidents, the main causes are mechanical injuries and roof accidents.  

In recent years, although the comprehensive promotion and application of new technologies such as intelligence in coal mine production have greatly improved the level of coal mine safety management, technology can never replace people. This is especially true for safe production, where human factors come first. Zhou Dechang, deputy director of the National Mine Safety Supervision Bureau, once pointed out that according to statistics, more than 90% of coal mine production safety accidents are directly related to people’s unsafe behaviors.  

Industry experts have said that at present, great progress has been made in terms of technical equipment and management measures in the prevention and control of major hazards in coal mine safety production, but there are still certain loopholes in personal safety behavior standards. The supervision and inspection of coal mine safety by relevant departments often focus on the supervision of prevention and control measures for major hazard sources, while the supervision of individual unsafe behaviors has always been relatively weak. However, to prevent ordinary and major accidents, we must start from the implementation of safety responsibilities of all employees and the correction of individual unsafe behaviors.  

The above background is also the opportunity for the official promulgation of the Coal Mine Safety Production Regulations. Premier Li Qiang of the State Council recently signed an order of the State Council promulgating the “Coal Mine Safety Production Regulations” (hereinafter referred to as the “Regulations”), which will come into effect on May 1, 2024. The “Regulations” were formulated to strengthen coal mine production safety work, prevent and reduce coal mine production safety accidents, and ensure the safety of people’s lives and property.  

The “Regulations” are a basic backbone regulation in the field of coal mine production safety. They comprehensively summarize the experience of coal mine production safety in recent years. They are an important legislative achievement formed in the process of implementing new development concepts and promoting the high-quality development of safety production work. They have great influence on coal mines. Production safety has a far-reaching impact. The promulgation and implementation of the “Regulations” will help comprehensively standardize coal mine production safety work, further implement the main responsibilities of coal mine enterprises for safety production, further strengthen supervision and supervision responsibilities, and are of great significance for promoting the stable improvement of the coal mine safety production situation.  

In response to the current outstanding issues in coal mine production safety, the Regulations make clear provisions in strengthening the main responsibilities of enterprises and stricting the regulatory responsibilities of government departments. On the one hand, the “Regulations” clarify the responsibilities of coal mine superior enterprises, require coal mining enterprises to strengthen the safety management of their coal mines, and conduct regular safety inspections of their affiliated coal mines. For the first time, the relationship between coal mining enterprises and coal mines is clarified in regulations. The “Regulations” strengthen the “full chain” safety management of coal mine design, construction, completion acceptance, production, and closure; it also regulates coal mine enterprise safety systems, organizational structures, personnel responsibilities, education and training, labor treatment guarantees, safety facilities and equipment, and hazardous operations. “Comprehensive” regulation has been carried out in other aspects; the safety production responsibilities of all coal mining enterprise principals, safety production managers and employees have been refined, which has increased the company’s illegal costs and consolidated the main responsibility of the enterprise.  

At the same time, only by strengthening the safety production education of coal mine practitioners, helping them improve their safety awareness and cultivate safety habits, can we truly build a solid bottom line for safety, consolidate safety responsibilities, and lay a solid foundation for safe production.   Therefore, the “Regulations” also clearly stipulate for the first time from the regulatory level that coal mining enterprises should be equipped with “five-position” mine managers, that is, mine managers who understand safety production technology, production mine managers, safety mine managers, mechanical and electrical mine managers, chief engineers, and professional and technical mine managers. personnel and specialized disaster prevention and control agencies, truly allowing “people with understanding” to open and run mines, and improve the independent management capabilities of enterprises.   In short, safety is no small matter, especially the coal industry, which plays the most important role in my country’s economic development and energy supply. It should be based on the long term and start from the details to prevent accidents. The safe production of enterprises is also an important basis for the green transformation and sustainable development of the coal industry.

Source: Sxcoal