China starts coal mine crackdown after Inner Mongolia unrest

China's vast northern region of Inner Mongolia began a month-long overhaul of its lucrative coal mining industry on Wednesday, state media said, to ease public anger over the death of a herder who was struck by a coal truck.

Inner Mongolia has seen scattered protests over the past week or so by ethnic Mongolians, sparked by the death of the herder, but which have morphed into broader demands for protection of their culture.

The government, ever worried by threats to stability, is now trying to address some of the protesters' broader concerns about the damage caused by coal mining to traditional grazing lands of the Mongolian people in China.

The official Xinhua news agency, in an English-language report, said the death of the herder had "led to heightened concerns over industry practices in the resource-rich region's mining sector".

"The regional coal mine industry bureau ordered local work safety watchdogs to strengthen supervision of the coal mines to ensure safe production practices, protection of the environment, and attention to the welfare of local residents," it said.

Inner Mongolia's governor, the ethnic Mongolian Bagatur, said the government would "leave no stone unturned" in their probe into mines which damage the environment or seriously affect residents.

"The issue cannot be ignored," Xinhua quoted Bagatur as saying. "We will conduct a thorough probe, and no individual or enterprise shall be spared if violations are found."

The government is alsoconsidering setting up a compensation scheme for residents and herders who suffer from "excessive noise and dust" created by mining and the transport of coal, the report added, without giving details.

Ethnic Mongolians, who make up less than 20% of the roughly 24 million population of Inner Mongolia, have complained that their traditional grazing lands have been ruined by mining and desertification, and that the government has tried to force them to settle in permanent houses.

Inner Mongolia, which covers more than a tenth of China's land mass, is supposed to offer a high degree of self-rule, but Mongolians say the Han Chinese majority run the show and have been the main beneficiaries of economic development.

China's Mongolians rarely take to the streets, unlike Tibetans or Xinjiang's Uighurs, making the latest protests highly unusual.

Rights groups say word of the protests, and of the death of the herder, spread fast online in Inner Mongolia.

Xinhua said that four people had been charged with the death of the herder, a man named Mergen, who like many of China's Mongolians goes by only one name.

"Mergen and more than 20 others tried to block coal trucks, which local residents said had impacted their lives, late at night on May 10," Xinhua added.

"Mergen attempted to block the path of a coal truck and quarreled with the drivers. According to police, the truck dragged Mergen for 145 metres, leading (to) Mergen's death," the report said.

Xinhua said the trial would be public, but did not say when it would happen.

Inner Mongolia is China's biggest coal producing region and the protests come as severe power shortages loom ahead of the summer peak energy season.

But infrastructure is poor and the race by truck drivers, drawn by high margins, to transport coal to the country's east has been accompanied by a spate of accidents.



Features & Analysis

Cong counters BJPs allegations with Adani card
New Delhi: Playing the Adani card, Congress today sought to put Narendra Modi in the dock for giving vast tracts of land to his “favourite capitalist friend” at throw away prices by treating the state as his “private feudal...
Advani like a father to me, elect him with a huge margin: Modi
Kalol: Terming veteran BJP leader LK Advani as a father figure, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi urged voters at a rally in Kalol here today, to elect him from North Gujarat’s Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency with a huge margin....
South Asia may see below average to average monsoon in 2014: WMO
South Asia may see below average to average monsoon in 2014: WMO
Pune: India and its South Asian neighbours are expected to see below average to average rains this year if the El Nino weather pattern gains strength during the four-month monsoon season, a forum of weather experts said on Wednesday....
Pakistan encouraged by Modis remarks on ties, says envoy
Pakistan encouraged by Modis remarks on ties, says envoy
New Delhi: Pakistan today said it was “encouraged” after BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s remarks regarding ties with foreign countries and asserted that it was looking forward to a stable government here to engage “quickly, comprehensively and meaningfully”....
Pak army wants leading channel Geo News TV closed
Pak army wants leading channel Geo News TV closed
Islamabad: A Pakistani official says the army has sought to shut down the country’s leading Geo News TV channel. The official, Fakhruddin Mughal, says a legal team of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority is meeting on Wednesday to...
Singapore tanker robbed by pirates in Malacca Strait
Singapore tanker robbed by pirates in Malacca Strait
Kuala Lumpur: Pirates stopped a Singapore-owned tanker in the Malacca Strait and stole several million liters of diesel fuel it was carrying, Malaysian marine police said on Wednesday. Marine police deputy commander Abdul Rahim Abdullah said the tanker was...