A coal mine collapses under a landslide in China

An open-pit mine in Inner Mongolia collapsed on Wednesday afternoon.

A coal mine collapses under a landslide in China
Rescue workers are seen at the site of a collapsed coal mine in Alxa League, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, in this screengrab taken from a video shot February 23, 2023. CGTN/Handout via REUTERS

The backstory: China depends on coal for about 60% of its energy. In 2022, the country produced about 5 billion tons of coal, its biggest-ever output. At the same time, the government has been trying to reduce pollution and prevent mining accidents.

So, last year, China limited building new, smaller mines that produce less than 1.2 million tons per year in Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi. It also shut down more than 5,000 small output mines since 2016. Right now, China's top coal-producing region is in the Inner Mongolia province, and Xinjing Coal Industry Co. operates many of the mines there. But it's been fined over many safety violations in the past year.

The development: An open-pit mine in Inner Mongolia collapsed on Wednesday afternoon. A landslide covered the mine in rock and other debris while miners were working in the basin, but it's not clear yet what caused it. Five people have been confirmed dead, but at least 48 coal miners are still missing. More than 900 emergency workers were sent to the area Wednesday night, and rescuers have been working around the clock to find survivors. There were two more landslides after emergency forces arrived, temporarily suspending the rescue. Xinjing, the company that runs the mine, hasn't commented on the disaster.

Key comments:

"The rescue work is still being carried out in a very intense and orderly manner," said Wei Zhiguo, one of the leaders of the rescue effort, to state broadcaster CCTV.

"I had just started work at 1:15 in the afternoon when I realized that rocks were falling from the mountain," an injured miner told CCTV on Thursday. "I saw that the situation was getting more and more serious, and an evacuation was organized, but it was too late, the mountain just collapsed."

"We must make every possible effort to rescue the missing persons and treat the injured," China's President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday.