Two in particular, at a state-owned coal mine in Shaanxi province and a private iron ore mine in Hebei, left more than 220 miners dead.
The Shaanxi blast – one of the deadliest in more than 10 years, killing 166 miners – was given extensive coverage in state media, with commentators echoing growing public concerns that the human price of China's hunger for coal was becoming too great to bear.
The Hebei and Shaanxi explosions were both blamed on faulty electrical equipment igniting a build-up of gases in mines fitted with only the most rudimentary of ventilation equipment – a tragically familiar tale.
And it's hardly as if the grim existence of China's miners is that much better when their world isn't exploding around them. While officials were quick to reassure that no expense would be spared in the recovery and investigation efforts, that gave little comfort to hundreds of thousands of miners employed in one of the world's deadliest trades.
More surprising still was a subsequent announcement from China's top work safety official that deaths in the country's coal mines stood at "the lowest rate in history."
To the end of November, Wang Xianzheng said, 5,286 miners had died in China's mines, a drop of 451 deaths on the same period a year earlier.
It's still an horrific toll. In 2003 China produced 35% of the world's coal, but accounted for 80% of coal mining deaths.
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