Jonathan Watts in Miaowan, Sha'anxi province
"More than 5,000 Chinese miners are killed each year, 75% of the global total, even though the country produces only a third of the world's coal. Working under appalling safety conditions, they are sacrificed to fuel the factories that make the cheap goods snapped up by consumers in Britain and other wealthy nations.
"Faced with energy shortages this winter, the government has stepped up the pressure on mine operators to raise output. This has contributed to a spate of the worst disasters in the country's history. Last month, 216 miners were killed at Sunjiawan mine in north-east China in the most deadly accident in 50 years. Last October, another gas explosion killed 148. Last Thursday, a cave-in at a mine in Sha'anxi province killed 16 miners and left another 11 trapped underground."