Uncovering coal mining accident coverups: An alternative perspective on China's new safety narrative

Xiuyun Yang*, Kees Krul, David Sims

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


China has taken on a series of comprehensive institutional measures to improve the safety of its coal mining industry and workers. Official figures indicate similar reductions to both accidents and fatalities, from which a “new safety narrative” has emerged in official discourses. However, this view neglects the fact that many accidents are concealed or underreported in China's mining sector. This study critically examines China's safety measures with a novel dataset of 180 mining accident coverup cases derived from official, judicial, and media sources. The study's findings support three observations: (i) despite the imposition of stricter regulations and the closure of many informal and small-scale mines, accident coverups have continued at both legal and large-scale mines; (ii) despite increased monitoring including the implementation of a fatality indicator system, accident reporting is consistently manipulated by mine owners, local authorities, and even victims’ families; and (iii) although new stiffer penalties specifically sanction accident coverups, they are rarely imposed. Our results cast doubt on the conceived success of China's new safety narrative and demonstrate how industrial safety measures are deliberately and structurally compromised.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105637
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care
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  • Accident coverup
  • China
  • Coal mining
  • Safety measures
  • Underreporting


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