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China council endorses 'harsh penalties' in deadly coal mine disaster

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • More than 100 miners died in the 2009 explosion
  • Twelve people are facing criminal punishment
  • Another 28 face "disciplinary and administrative" punishment, Xinhua says

(CNN) -- China's State Council has "approved imposing harsh penalties" for 40 people held responsible for a coal mine disaster that killed more than 100 miners, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The state council -- similar to the U.S. Cabinet -- includes the head of each governmental department and the premier, and is China's chief civilian administrative body.

Twelve people -- including the mine's director -- are facing criminal punishment, according to Xinhua. An additional 28 are to receive "disciplinary and administrative punishments." The chairman of the state-owned mine's holding group was also removed, Xinhua said.

The explosion occurred at the Xinxing mine in northeastern Heilongjiang province in November 2009. According to state-run media, the cause of the blast was a gas leak combined with poor ventilation. It killed 104 miners, according to reports.

The Chinese government is attempting to improve mine safety, as mine accidents are common in China, resulting in 2,631 deaths in 2009, according to Xinhua.