Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Hidden Cost of Those Wal-mart Bargains

Before you buy a "made in China" bargain at Wal-mart or other stores thia holiday season, read this from the LA Times
On Sunday, a gas explosion swept through Chenjiashan mine here in Shaanxi province, about 450 miles southwest of Beijing. This morning, the official New China News Agency confirmed that 103 miners who were trapped as deep as five miles underground were dead, including Zhao's 32-year-old husband, Ding Aituan.

With 63 confirmed dead earlier, the toll of 166 made this China's worst mining disaster in four years.

The country's economy is booming. But much of that prosperity is being built on the backs of millions like Ding. Behind the seemingly endless supply of consumer goods arriving on Western shelves at two-for-one prices are people struggling on survival wages under bleak conditions to produce the cheap energy Chinese factories need.

China, which produces 35% of the world's coal, accounts for 80% of coal mining fatalities, according to government figures — 4,153 deaths were reported in the first nine months of 2004. Experts say corruption, poor oversight and the fact that it's often cheaper to pay off a death claim than invest in safety equipment contribute to the country's dubious record.

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