Before the meeting Li was reportedly so angry that he shouted and punched his desk, the China Daily quoted unnamed officials as saying.

China's mining industry is already regarded as the world's deadliest, but even by its own standards recent days have been particularly bad.

  • On Saturday, explosions caused by a build up of gas in two separate mines in the northeastern province of Heilongjang and the southern province of Yunnan left 54 miners dead.

  • On Sunday, another gas explosion at a coalmine in the central province of Shanxi killed 24 miners.

  • And on Monday seven miners at a mine in the southwestern province of Guizhou were killed when the coal heap they were working on collapsed.

A survivor of the Yunnan blast being
comforted by relatives
Many of the mining accidents in China are blamed on mine owners keeping unsafe mines open to feed the country's soaring demand for energy.

With the onset of winter the demand for coal has become even stronger.

Singling out the Yunnan blast, Li denounced members the local government he said had allowed the Changyuan mine to continue operations after national safety officials had ordered it closed.

According to the report in the China Daily, the mine was ordered to be closed at the beginning of this year, but instead another small mine was shut down which local officials claimed was the Changyuan mine.

"Don't let some unscrupulous coal mine owners kill more people in their last frenzy to make profit"

Li Yizhong, director of China's State Administration of Work Safety

"It is like a story in the 'Arabian Nights'," the report quoted Li as saying. "It is like replacing a person on the death list with another.

"The case illustrates how some local governments are wilfully flouting national safety regulations."

Outlining new measures, Li said the government would mete out severe punishment for mine owners and local officials that inflate coal production figures in order to avoid being hit by a nationwide campaign to close small mines.

"Don't let some unscrupulous coal mine owners kill more people in their last frenzy to make profit," he said.