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Chinato ban small coal mines to improve pit safety

BEIJING- China is to ban the building of coal mines with high gas danger whose annual production capacity would be below 300,000 tonnes, according to a new guideline for coal mine safety, the State Administration of Work Safety told Xinhua on Thursday.

The country plans to cut the death toll from coal mine gas blasts by at least 20 percent by 2010, compared with the 2007 figures, according to the coal mine safety guideline issued by the work safety commission of the State Council, or the Cabinet.

Coal mine accidents killed 3,770 people last year, among whom 1,084 people died from gas blasts, statistics from the administration showed.

The guideline orders large-scale coal mines to set up their own rescue teams, while smaller mines must work with neighbouring rescue teams to guarantee prompt rescue in case of any accident.

It also urged newly-built coal mines to build underground emergency shelters for miners, providing food, water, oxygen, communication facilities and other necessities.

The government has vowed to close more than 4,000 small coal mines to reduce their total number to less than 10,000 by 2010 in a bid to improve industry safety.

Chinahas about 16,000 coal mines, 90 percent of which are classified as small ones, and their safety record is far worse than that of large mines.

Green axe hangs over local officials

About 60 percent provincial and regional government officials’ career success depends on their achievements in saving energy and protecting the environment, a top development official said Thursday.

The central government announced last year that local government officials’ promotions would depend not only on economic growth, but also on their environmental efforts. Which means they will not be promoted if they fail to achieve their green targets.

Xie Zhenhua, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the progress made since is a “great achievement” despite some local officials’ “slow response”.

Chinahas vowed to cut its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent by 2010.

It also vowed to cut pollutant emission by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).
The central government has told all provinces and autonomous regions to cut their share, taking the 2005 level as the benchmark. So “the local governments’ performance is vital to the nation’s goal”, Xie said.
But the energy saving story is still “grim”, Xie said, even though the officials’ performances are yet to be assessed. They will be judged on a five-yearly basis.
In 2006, China managed to reduce the use of energy by 1.23 percent, though the target was 4 percent. It reached closer to its target last year, but still fell short by 0.34 percentage points.
The first half of this year saw a reduction of 2.88 percent, only 0.1 percentage point better year-on-year.

77 applications, no protests at Beijing Games
Since Aug 1, Beijing authorities have received 77 applications from people wishing to stage demonstrations, a spokesperson for the municipal public security bureau said on Aug 18.
The applications involved 149 people, including three from overseas. Most of the applications concerned labor, medical and welfare issues, which is not applicable for protests according to Chinese law and should be dealt through available channels with government agencies, the spokesperson said.
For the three applications submitted by foreigners, “Two other applications have been suspended due to incomplete procedures. The other case concerned incomplete particulars.
Chinese law requires demonstrators to submit their requests at least five days in advance, detail the subject of protest, and provide basic information of the participants. Every participant have to appear in person when submitting the application.
Chinaannounced last month it would set up zones in three Beijing parks where demonstrators could legally stage protests during the Olympic Games. They are Zizhuyuan Park in the city’s northwest, Ritan Park in the east and World Park in the southwest. No protest has been allowed yet.

Lending to small firms encouraged
The government has introduced new incentives to encourage more lenders to provide microcredit loans to labor-intensive small firms and laid-off workers starting new businesses.
In a joint statement, the People’s Bank of China, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said microcredit lenders are allowed to raise the lending rate by up to 3 percentage points more than the benchmark rate for loans granted since January 1 to laid-off workers starting new businesses.
The measures are part of the central government’s efforts to provide additional capital to encourage the growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and create more jobs.
The government will shoulder the financial burden of interest charges levied on businesses with thin profit margins.
“SMEs are major engines of job creation in China,” said Zhou Dewen, director of the Wenzhou Council for the Development and Promotion of SMEs. “The introduction of new incentives for microcredit loans is good news for SMEs.”
Economists and industry experts said domestic enterprises still rely too heavily on bank loans to finance their growth. This reliance has seriously hampered the growth of many SMEs because banks traditionally prefer to lend to large State-owned enterprises.

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