Rescuers make contact with trapped Hushan miners
Rescuers working to make contact with trapped miners at an underground gold mine in east China’s Shandong Province say they have retrieved a note from the site that indicates that 12 workers are still alive, leaving the fate of another 10 unclear.
An explosion at the Hushan mine in Qixia City left the miners trapped, local authorities say. Although the blast took place on January 10, it was not until 30 hours later that the accident was reported, resulting in the sacking of two senior local officials and severe criticism levelled at those responsible.
A Xinhua News Agency report says that rescuers have felt people pulling on the iron ropes that were used to deliver nutrient solutions on Sunday night. The rescuers previously drilled a channel at 1:56PM local time on Sunday, knocked on the drilling pipe and received knocking sounds back in response.
The blast took place at approximately 2pm on January 10, about 240 metres away from the mine entrance, the report states, adding that 22 miners were working 600 metres away from the explosion site.
The workers’ communication systems have been damaged in the blast, while debris are blocking the mine shaft, rescuers say, pointing out that the late reporting of the accident has also hampered rescue efforts.
The Hushan Mine is owned by Shandong Wucailong Investment Co. Zhaojin Mining Industry Co, China’s fourth-largest gold miner, describes Shandong Wucailong Investment Co as a ‘subsidiary of an associate’. It has not commented publicly on the accident.
However, Shandong provincial authorities have sacked two top officials in the city of Qixia following the explosion. State broadcaster CCTV reports that Qixia Communist Party Secretary Yao Xiuxia and Deputy Secretary Zhu Tao – who also served as mayor – have been dismissed. Li Bo, deputy mayor of Yantai, which oversees Qixia, will act as Qixia party secretary, the broadcaster adds.
Speaking at news conference on January 15, Li stated that authorities would investigate and ‘severely punish’ those responsible for the accident’.
China’s mining industry has a poor safety record, with accidents common and regulations poorly enforced. In December 2020, 18 miners were killed due to a carbon monoxide leak at the Songzao coal mine, which is owned by a local energy company, in the southwestern city of Chongqing. The burning of belts in the mine caused carbon monoxide levels to exceed safety limits, Xinhua reported at the time.
Low carbon world needs $1.7trn in mining investment
According to a new report from consultancy Wood Mackenzie, mining companies need to invest nearly $1.7trn in the next 15 years to help supply enough copper, cobalt, nickel and other metals needed for the shift to a low carbon world.
Cutting carbon emissions
The United States, Britain, Japan, Canada and others raised their targets on cutting carbon emissions to halt global warming at a summit in April hosted by US President Joe Biden.
Meeting those targets will need large-scale deployment of electric vehicles, storage for power generated from renewables and electricity transmission, all of which require industrial materials, such as lightweight aluminium and metals used in batteries such as cobalt and lithium.
Wood Mackenzie analyst Julian Kettle calculated miners needed to invest about $1.7trn during the next 15 years to “deliver a two-degree pathway - where the rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times is limited to 2°C”.
“At an industry level, there seems to be reticence around investing sufficient capital to develop future supply at the pace and scale demanded by the energy transition (ET),” he said.
Mining firms are wary of making heavy investments after their experience of the last decade when they invested in new capacity just as demand peaked, leading to a collapse in prices and revenues. They also need to please investors, who are unlikely to want to see dividends diverted to capital spending.
Rising demands of investors related environment, social and governance (ESG) issues further add to the challenge.
Australia, Canada and Western Europe carry a low ESG risk but some of the best resources are in high-risk areas, such as Democratic Republic of Congo, which sits on about half the world’s cobalt reserves according to the U.S. Geological Survey. “Given the need to meet tough decarbonisation and ESG targets, Western governments, lenders, investors and consumers will need to get comfortable operating in jurisdictions where ESG issues are more complex,” Kettle said.
Kettle said government support was needed to help miners comply with ESG issues to ensure production from high-risk areas was conducted in an acceptable way to consumers.
“Then, and only then, will the West be able to secure sufficient volumes of the raw materials needed to pursue the energy transition in the timescales envisaged.”