Twenty-nine miners were working underground during a Chinese mine collapse in Pingyi County, Shandong Province, in eastern China, which occurred at about 8 a.m. Christmas Day, according to China News.
The gypsum mine cave-in was responsible for taking the life of one miner, according to the Wall Street Journal. Seven hundred rescuers are involved in efforts to reach those remaining underground.
The massive Chinese gypsum mine cave-in was reported to have registered magnitude 4.0 with the national earthquake bureau.
Six people were said to have been saved from the collapse soon after it occurred on Friday, and one miner was rescued on Saturday, after having been found with his leg pinned underneath a rock. At least one miner was said to have been treated in a hospital’s intensive care ward and is now in “stable” condition.
Rescue efforts were said to be focusing on two shafts that were already in place, though damaged during the mine collapse. “Heavy machinery” was reportedly being used in an attempt to clear one of the shafts.
Using cameras designed to detect infrared signatures, rescuers were able to find eight of the surviving miners trapped in pockets remaining underground. The miners were said to have been waving their hands when detected, aware that they had been found. Nine of the gypsum mine’s workers are still missing.
Once the rescue team located the group of eight known survivors of the collapse, communication was established and the hungry and tired, but otherwise unharmed, men were sent supplies and lights. Conditions in and around the gypsum mine are described as being “treacherous.” Rescue efforts are said to be challenged by repeated cave-ins and flows of water.
The owner of the Chinese gypsum mine, Ma Congbo, was reported to have died in “an apparent suicide,” two days after the cave-in, according to the CBC. Ma Congbo was reported to have drowned after he jumped down a well. China has reportedly begun to take a tougher stance on mine owners who are deemed to be “negligent,” according to the BBC. Some have speculated that this may have been a motive for the mine owner’s suicide.
Four officials with Pingyi County, including the county’s party chief and head of government, have been fired over the incident, according to Yahoo News. Work in the mine was ordered to be halted in October due to concerns about a “sinkhole.” Despite this, production of the mine appears to have continued in “secret,” with the collapse bringing deadly results.
In 2002, 7,000 miners were reported to have perished in collapses, cave-ins, and other accidents working in Chinese mines. As a result of efforts to stem this deadly tide on the part of the Chinese government and those with vested interests in the industry, the number of deaths fell to 931 in 2014. While a big improvement, China still claims the dubious distinction of being home to the “world’s deadliest” mines. Some observers claim that under-reporting by participants is masking a more endemic problem in the Chinese mining industry.
Gypsum is a “soft suphate material” that is a major component of drywall, or gypsum board. The Gypsum Association describes the mineral as being “non toxic” and mined in 85 countries, with large reserves in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Gypsum is composed of “calcium, sulfur bound to oxygen, and water.” One hundred pounds of gypsum is said to contain 10 quarts or 21 pounds of water.
Other recent Chinese industrial disasters include a landslide earlier in December in Shenzhen and a chemical factory explosion in Tianjin in August.
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