However, labour rights groups say the real death toll is likely much higher with mine operators covering up accidents to avoid official attention.

 

Many of the accidents are in small, illegal mines where safety procedures are often ignored as owners cut corners in the rush for profits servicing China's soaring appetite for coal.

 

The Chinese government has launched several campaigns targeting unsafe mines, but few weeks go by without reports of major floods, fires and other disasters hitting mines somewhere in the country.