A minimum of 10,000 dangerous small coal mines will be closed this year in China, the South China Morning Post reported. The closures are part of a central government plan to shut 23,000 small coal mines by mid-2008. A small coal mine is defined as one that produces less than 300,000 metric tons annually. According to State Administration of Work Safety chief Li Yizhong, the number of closures this year will be ahead of schedule by six months. Small coal mines in China are notoriously dangerous; 3,431 people died in such mines last year.