China to test mine disaster survival capsule

China's mine safety regulators are considering the introduction of a mine refuge facility in underground mines. The space would provide oxygen, drinking water and food for miners seeking temporary safety from accidents, said Zhao Tiechui, deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety and director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.

The administration plans to start with pilot projects using the safety facility this year, he said. Earlier models of the facility will be those that are fixed in the mining shafts. Future structures made of metal in more sophisticated forms will be movable.

A total of 2,631 Chinese coal miners died in mine accidents last year, down by 18% year-on-year, according to official figures quoated by Yan Jie of China Daily. They died in 1,616 coal mine accidents, down 17% compared with the previous year.

However, the administration, which closed 1,088 mines in 2009, has vowed to further tighten controls on small coal mines, which it said accounted for nearly 70% of coal-mine deaths last year. "We must limit the number of small coal mines to 10,000 by the end of this year," added Zhao.