China mine boss given suspended death sentence for abuses linked to deadly landslide

Thursday, September 30, 2010

China mine boss given suspended death sentence

BEIJING — A mine boss in north China was given a suspended death sentence Thursday for bribery, illegal trade in explosives and other crimes linked to a landslide of iron ore waste that swept through a village, killing 277 people, state media said.

China National Radio reported that mine boss Zhang Peiliang and 57 others were sentenced by a court in Shanxi province’s Linfen city, close to Xiangfen county, where the disaster occurred two years ago.

On Sept. 8, 2008, an illegal waste reservoir collapsed at Zhang’s mine, unleashing a three-story wave of gray sludge that inundated a valley in Xiangfen, burying hundreds. The disaster occurred just as customers were arriving at a busy outdoor market.

The disaster underscored two major public safety concerns in China: the failure to enforce protective measures in the country’s notoriously deadly mines, and the unsound state of many of its bridges, dams and other aging infrastructure.

The group convicted Thursday included several high-ranking local officials, China National Radio said. It said Duan Bo, the former head of a municipal Public Security Bureau in the area, was sentenced to life in prison, and the former vice mayor of Linfen, Zhou Jie, was jailed for 12 years — both for taking bribes.

Several provincial level officials were also given jail terms or probation, including a chief engineer for the Shanxi Administration of Land Resources and a vice director of the Shanxi Administration for Work Safety, it said.

The mine boss, Zhang, was convicted of committing a major work safety violation, illegal trading of explosives, illegal mining, tax evasion and bribery. He was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. Such punishments are usually commuted to life in prison.

Others were given probation or sentences of up to 20 years in prison, China National Radio said, without listing every conviction.

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