Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Chinese-made goods sold by Wal-Mart and other discount retailers are gloriously, soul-satisfyingly cheap.

Too bad they're killing coal miners.

More than 5,000 Chinese miners are killed each year, 75% of the global total, even though the country produces only a third of the world's coal. Working under appalling safety conditions, they are sacrificed to fuel the factories that make the cheap goods snapped up by consumers in Britain and other wealthy nations.

... Last month, 216 miners were killed at Sunjiawan mine in north-east China in the most deadly accident in 50 years. Last October, another gas explosion killed 148. Last Thursday, a cave-in at a mine in Sha'anxi province killed 16 miners and left another 11 trapped underground.

And if there's a fire in a mine? Stay in the pit or lose pay:

The five-mile deep pit at Chenjiashan had a particularly bad reputation. Four years ago, 38 men died in a gas explosion. Five days before the latest accident a fire broke out underground. "We came up, but the bosses told us to go back. We didn't want to, but we had to," says one miner, Li, who lost his brother in the explosion. "We all needed the money and there is a penalty of 100 yuan (around £6) for refusing to go down."

...There have been no reports of punishments for any of the mine operators who forced their men into the burning pit.

In the Chinese coal mines, life is literally cheap:

In calculating compensation for the victims of the Chenjiashan blast, the state estimated the value of a miner's life at 51,000 yuan (£3,200). An extra 20,000 yuan was paid as a widow's allowance and another 20,000 yuan for an unrecovered body. By contrast, mine operators were reportedly promised a 400,000 yuan bonus if they could raise output by 400,000 tonnes in the last two months of the year. They could afford at least three deaths and still come out with a profit.

No comments: