At least 50 trapped in Chinese gold mine

Rescuers try to reach workers after a fire broke out at Lingnan Gold Mine, the latest incident at China's laxly regulated mining industry this week, in which 21 people have already died.

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BEIJING // At least 53 miners were trapped underground after a fire engulfed a gold mine in east China on Friday, state media reported. Sixty-four people were initially trapped after the fire broke out at Lingnan Gold Mine in Zhaoyuan, Shandong province, but 11 had been rescued, Xinhua quoted a provincial emergency affairs office spokesman as saying. Rescuers were attempting to reach the trapped people and had made contact with 32 of the 53 miners. The spokesman said those contacted were in "safe areas" underground while the remaining 21 were in "at risk" sections of the mine. Power was cut off after the blaze and there was air in some areas of the mine shaft, he said. A spokesman for the Yantai City government, which covers Zhaoyuan, earlier told Xinhua more than 200 had escaped after the blaze. It was not known exactly how many people were working underground at the time nor whether the fire had caused any casualties, the Yantai spokesman said. An initial investigation showed the fire was probably caused by an underground cable, he said. No further details were given in the brief report. China's vast mining industry is plagued by lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency, as mines rush to meet soaring energy demand. Twenty-one people were killed and 12 others were trapped in two coal mine accidents earlier this week. An explosion rocked a colliery Tuesday in the southwestern province of Guizhou, killing 12 and trapping five, state media reported. Sixty miners were working underground when the accident happened in Renhuai city, but 43 managed to escape or were saved. Late Monday, nine workers were killed and seven trapped when deadly gas leaked into a pit at the Sanyuandong coal mine in Dengfeng city in central Henan province, the State Work Safety Administration said in a statement. At the weekend, 24 miners were trapped in a flooded pit in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, while 17 others were killed in an explosion at a mine in the northern province of Shanxi, China's coal-producing heartland. Last year 2,631 miners were killed in China, according to official figures, but independent labour groups say the actual figure could be much higher as many accidents are covered up to avoid costly shutdowns. * Agence France-Presse