The country's top work safety official has admitted it will be tough to reduce the number of small coal mines to the targeted 10,000 by 2010.
Li Yizhong, minister of the State Administration of Work Safety, said the goal is becoming more unattainable as some areas are setting up new mines despite the central government's policy to close most of them.
The establishment of small mines - defined as having an annual production capacity of less than 300,000 tons - is no longer allowed. But of the nearly 4,000 mines currently being built or expanded, four in five have an annual output of less than 300,000 tons, he said.
There are an estimated 24,000 small mines in the country.
Li criticized some local governments for not implementing the policy on closure of such mines, which has resulted in an increase of major accidents since the beginning of the year.
According to the administration, the number of mining accidents this year which claimed the lives of between 10 and 29 people increased by 7.7 percent compared to the same period last year.
Small mines account for one-third of the national coal production but two-thirds of all deaths from accidents. In 2006, accidents in small mines killed 3,431 people; the total was 4,700.
Li also said that in some areas, mines had been "closed" by simply plugging the well mouths, without dismantling underground production and transport facilities.
These mines are just in a suspended state and can resume production easily, Li told a national conference in Ordos in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
(China Daily 06/07/2007 page1)