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China holds mine boss who smeared coal on face
China hold boss who smeared coal on face to pretend he was in mine where 34 died, 9 trapped
By The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) ' Chinese police detained a mine boss who smeared coal on his face to pretend he had been in the shaft where 34 miners died and nine are still trapped, state media said Monday.

Mine bosses who don't go underground with their workers face severe punishments under a rule imposed last year to improve safety. Chinese mines are still the world's most dangerous, though deaths rates have been lowered significantly.

A powerful gas leak at the Sizhuang Coal Mine in Yunnan province Thursday trapped 43 miners. Nine are still trapped, while 34 have been confirmed dead.

The People's Daily reported that Qi Guming, deputy head of the coal mine, has been taken into custody on suspicion of faking evidence, citing a briefing by the rescue command office.

After the accident, Qi "rushed down the shaft and smeared coal on his face to pretend he had escaped from underground," the newspaper said. "On Sunday ... the public security authority confirmed that Qi did not go down the shaft on that day, and made false claims to the rescue command office."

The regulation that took effect last year calls for mines that violate the rules to pay between 150,000 and 5 million yuan ($22,400 to $750,000) in fines, depending on whether the mine also suffers serious accidents. Bosses can be fined between 10,000 yuan ($1,500) and up to 80 percent of their income from the previous year and face a lifetime ban on mine supervision work.

The official Xinhua News Agency has said the Sizhuang Coal Mine's license was revoked in April and it was operating illegally.

China closed many smaller, illegal mines in recent years as part of its safety efforts. Annual fatalities are now about one-third of the high of nearly 7,000 in 2002.

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