BEIJING, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese government has pledged to close more unqualified and dangerous coal mines by 2015 as the country strives to improve its alarming safety record.
At least 2,000 small coal mines will be closed by the end of 2015, the State Council, China's cabinet, said in a statement on Saturday.
The closures will target coal mines with annual output of no more than 90,000 tons that fail to meet the safety rules, and mines based on substandard coal resources that are prone to accidents, according to the statement.
The government will also tighten the development threshold by ending approval of construction on coal mines with annual capacity of less than 300,000 tons.
Coal mines with annual capacity of less than 900,000 tons and with substandard coal resources prone to accidents will not be approved.
To support the upgrading of facilities, the government will allocate more funds to areas where small pits are closed.
China was once criticized for having the world's deadliest coal mines due to its deep reserves of coal and loopholes in regulating the nation's 12,000 coal mines.
To protect workers' lives and appease the growing public anger, the government has taken iron-fisted measures to reshuffle small pits, which are responsible for two-thirds of annual accidents, and intensify punishment for government and company officials accountable for the disasters.
According to data from the State Administration of Work Safety, the fatality rate per million metric tons mined in 2011 was 0.564, down sharply from the 4.94 recorded in 2002.
Some 1,384 people were killed in coal mine accidents in 2012.
Despite improving records, China still has a long way to go compared with developed countries. In 2011, the fatality rate per million metric tons mined in the United States was only 0.019.