China introduces mine safety rule

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Rescuers at a Chinese coal mine, August 2008
Image caption,
Most mining accidents in China are blamed on failures to follow safety rules

New regulations have come into force in China that require managers of mines to accompany workers down the shafts.

Chinese mines are notorious for fatal accidents. More than 2,500 miners were killed in China last year.

The authorities hope that putting officials in the mines alongside their workers will act as a strong incentive to improve safety conditions.

But already there have been reports of some managers trying to manipulate the new regulation.

At one mine, seven workers were given jobs as assistant managers to circumvent the new rule.

Beijing says that such tactics will not be allowed.

There are an estimated seven million miners in China - more than the total of all other coal-producing countries.

Mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, where to earn a living means putting your life at risk, and Beijing is pushing the industry to clean up its act.

There are about 25,000 mines, including those that are privately owned. About 1,250 mines were closed this year as part of the safety campaign.

Coal-burning energy plants produce 70% of the country's energy needs.