Random Analytics: China Mining Fatalities (August 2013)

by Shane Granger

Xinhua had some interesting (and sobering statistics) on mining casualties. They include:

  • Mine accidents killed 37 workers for every 100-million metric tonnes of coal produced in 2012, down from 56.4 for 2011 but well above the US which reported 1.9 in that same year;
  • 1,384 fatalities occurred in Chinese coal mines in 2012, down from 1,973 in 2011 and 2,433 in 2010;
  • 93% of coal gas blasts were caused by poor ventilation.

China is acknowledged by many to be the most dangerous place on Earth to work in mining, especially when it comes to coal mining.

Currently updated to the end of the first week in September here is a look at the major incidents in the mining sector in China as reported by Xinhua and other media outlets.


  1 - ChinaMiningDeathsInfographic_130909                     

There have been 46-major incidents which have been reported by Xinhua. These incidents have recorded 446 confirmed fatalities and 236 injuries. 54-persons were reported as missing without confirmation of their subsequent rescue so the fatality count could be as high as 500.

As shown above Coal is the most dangerous resource to mine in China with 38-incidents (83%) and 320-deaths (72%). Copper was the second most dangerous resource by numbers with just two-incidents (4%) but 86-deaths (19%). Incidents in gold, sulphur and oil extraction accounted for the rest of the balance.

When it comes to the cause of major incidents which result in fatalities gas blasts make up slightly more than half of the current total with 18-incidents (39%) and 225-deaths (51%). Landslides were the second leading cause with 4-incidents (9%) and 103-deaths (23%) while poison gas also had 4-incidents (9%) but just 41-deaths (9%).

Other causes include flood (7-incidents, 20-deaths), mine collapse (4-incidents, 18-deaths), accidental explosive discharges (3-incidents, 17-deaths), fire (2-incidents, 15-deaths), electrocution (1-incident, 5-deaths), oil explosion (1-incident, 2-deaths). Two incidents (4-deaths) have an unknown cause.

There has been a lot of winter rain in China which has caused severe flooding in some parts of the country and increased the risk profile of landslides and flooding.

Another interesting data point is that at least seven incidents and 60-deaths can be confirmed in illegal mining operations.

Fatalities by Province

2 - ChinaMiningDeathsbyProvince_130909

The above infographic is the breakdown of incidents and fatalities by Province.

Fatalities by Month

3 - ChinaMiningDeathsbyMonth_130909

The final graph looks at reported mining deaths by month including provisional numbers for the current month. I have split the graph to show confirmed fatalities and those still missing at the time of the most recent incident reporting. It should be noted that often Chinese media will report a major incident but do not do follow-up updates.

To August the major incident average is 5.5 per month and the fatality average ranged from 54 to 60.75 (if you include those reported as missing).

To date the three most significant mining disasters of 2013 include:

  1. Jiama Copper Gold Polymetallic Landslide (29 March 2013): On a Friday morning a three kilometre landslide with more than 2-million cubic metres of rock and debris buried the Jiama Copper Gold Polymetallic company facility located within the Tibet Autonomous Zone and 83-workers who were onsite at the time. More than 1,000 first responders attended the scene along with 129 pieces of plant but unfortunately there were no survivors.
  2. Babao Coal Mine Gas Blasts (29 March & 1 April 2013): On the same day as the Jiama incident in Tibet a gas blast ripped through the Babao Coal Mine in Jilin Province killing 36 and wounding 12. At the time the company underreported the incident. The provincial government put an immediate halt on production for safety inspections but the mine management disregarded the order and sent further work crews into the shaft. A subsequent explosion occurred 3-days later killing a further 17 and wounding eight bringing the combined disaster total to 53-dead and 19 wounded. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) conducted investigations of the mine and found that coal had self- ignited and there were a lack of fire-preventing measures in place all caused by poor management practices. Senior managers have since been prosecuted, as have officials including the local mayor and members of the Work Safety Bureau.
  3. Taozigao Coal Mine Gas Blast (11 May 2013): As 108 unauthorised workers toiled in the Taozigao Coal Mine in Sichuan Province a gas blast erupted killing 28 and wounding 18. This incident is the largest known illegal mining disaster of 2013.

The most recent incident was at the Yangliutan Coal Mine in Guizhou Province, South West China when five workers were killed by electrocution and another three were hospitalised.

Final Thoughts

This analysis can only scratch the surface of what is going on in the Chinese mining industry.

A commonality of the 46 incidents reported by Xinhua was that they covered accidents which involved three or more persons. Thus, a huge amount of individual deaths and injuries that can happen on any mine in any part of the world including Australia must surely go unreported. There is also no way to validate this data against a Chinese regulator. In all fairness to the Chinese it is also difficult to get immediate injury and fatality data from Australian mining regulators and Work Cover entities.

Another factor here is illegal mining. To date at least seven incidents and 60-deaths occurred in illegal mines which have subsequently required a major rescue effort. How many unknown accidents and tragedies have gone unreported?

While China remains the most power hungry nation on the planet one unfortunate (yet certain) point can be taken from this analysis.

There will be more tragedies.


Note: I also complete a monthly Australian Mining Workforce Planning Scan. If you are interested you can find it here: Random Analytics: Mining Workforce Planning Scan (August 2013).