Rescuers on the site of the collapsed coal mine in Alxa league, North China’s Inner Mongolia on February 23, 2023. Photo: Xinhua
A coal mine that collapsed in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in February and killed 53 and injured six, causing direct economic losses of over 204 million yuan ($27.99 million), was a production safety responsibility accident resulted from a long-term existence of major hidden risks, China’s State Council announced the investigation result of the accident on Tuesday.
A total of 19 people from the relevant company have been arrested or placed under investigation and 42 public servants involved have been punished or investigated, Xinhua News Agency reported.
According to the accident investigation team of the State Council, the accident occurred in the open-pit coal mine located in Alxa Left Banner, Alxa league, Inner Mongolia, on February 22 resulted from multiple inducements including carrying out production while the coal mine was under construction, illegally outsourcing the construction work of the coal mine to the company without qualification.
Besides, the dereliction of supervision and inspection duty of relevant supervision departments and authorities also led to the long-term existence of the major risks and hidden danger and eventually led to the production safety responsibility accident.
The Communist Party China Central Committee and the State Council attached great importance to the accident and ordered the all-out rescue efforts. The authorities ordered a scientifically organized rescue and to enhance monitoring and early warning to prevent secondary disasters. Besides, the causes of the accident were ordered to be identified in a timely manner and individuals responsible for the accident have to be strictly held accountable.
The investigation team thoroughly investigated the accident through methods such as on-site inspection, survey testing, computational analysis, reviewing documents, interviews and discussions. They reviewed more than 1,300 volumes of documents, conducted on-site inspections 17 times, and held interviews with 231 individuals. All these efforts allowed them to identified details related to the casualties, direct economic losses, progress of the accident, causes and information about the involved enterprises.
According to the investigation, the direct cause of the accident was the construction of the coal mine which did not follow the initial design of the project and the improper operation of coal mining led to instability and eventual collapse of the coal mine.
Besides, inadequate emergency response and failure to promptly organize on-site personnel for evacuation resulted in significant casualties and property damages.
The main problems exposed by the accident include severe illegal construction and production activities in the coal mine, reckless illegal actions of the company, the deception committed by the intermediary agency and supervision company, as well as lax and ineffective oversight and supervision from the relevant departments and authorities.
In response to the problems exposed by the accident, the accident investigation team summarized five main lessons learned from the accident including the weak safety development concepts, repeated mistakes, loose supervision and poor quality of hidden danger investigation and rectification, as well as the severe lack of corporate accountability, and poor safety conditions in small mines.
The authority also put forward six rectification and prevention measures including carrying out a comprehensive investigation and rectification of hidden dangers of major accidents in mines.
19 people from the relevant companies suspected of committing crimes have been placed under investigation by the public security department of Inner Mongolia, including 13 who will be arrested.
Meanwhile, 42 public servants from the local government departments including the Inner Mongolia bureau of the National Mine Safety Administration have been seriously dealt with, including six government officials who have been placed under disciplinary inspection and investigation for the suspicion of severe violations against disciplines and laws, as well as involvement in criminal activities related to their official duties. Among them, Li Zhongzeng, head of Alxa league, was given a serious warning within the Party.