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31 officials being investigated in coal mine accidents

2014-12-12 09:01 China Daily Web Editor: Si Huan

Allegations include abuse of power, dereliction of duty and bribery

Thirty-one officials have been investigated for involvement in three coal mine accidents dating to 2009 that were hidden and falsely reported, the country's top procuratorate said on Thursday.

The officials, including coal industry administrators, work safety watchdog staff and town government officials, are suspected of crimes that included abuse of power, dereliction of duty and accepting bribes, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said in a statement.

The three accidents resulted in the deaths of 39 people and dozens of others injured in Henan and Heilongjiang provinces.

Learning about the accidents, the top procuratorate sent teams to investigate the officials' alleged misconduct.

The local authorities and mine operators were found to have failed to follow their duties to report the accidents and carry out rescue work. The casualties and losses had been sealed, and one accident went unreported for four years.

"The false or missing reports violated law and discipline, behavior more odious than causing the accidents. It may leave the possibility of worse accidents, delay timely rescues and enlarge the loss to the nation," the statement said.

This has created an extremely bad influence in society, the statement continued.

On Dec 22, 2009, a fire in a coal mine in Lushan, Henan, killed 24 workers and caused economic losses of 20 million yuan ($3.2 million).

On Dec 22, 2013, a coal mine in Gongyi, Henan, was flooded, killing seven and causing losses of 15 million yuan.

Huang Yongdong, former director of the Lushan coal industry bureau, and seven local officials were probed on suspicion of abuse of power and dereliction of duty. Some were found to have accepted bribes.

The supervision agency overseeing the coal mines in Hegang, Heilongjiang province, didn't observe the illegal production of the mine company, in which a mine accident killed eight workers on July 5, 2014. After that, officials sealed the information of the accident with the mine operators.

Fifteen officials involved were probed on the deeds of misconduct and bribery.

All officials under investigation have been placed under "compulsory measures," which, according to China's Criminal Procedure Law, include summons by force, bail, residential surveillance, detention and arrest, according to the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

Zhao Li with Beijing Jingshi Lawyer's Office said an official's punishment will be severe if the behavior delayed a rescue and caused larger losses.

A campaign to improve mine safety has lowered death tolls from accidents considerably in recent years. Just over 1,000 deaths from 604 coal mining accidents were reported in 2013, down from more than 6,000 a year a decade ago.

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