The local government in Shanxi province has said it was deceived after claiming that there were no casualties in a fatal landslide last week. The local police previously detained one person for “spreading rumours” after they posted online saying that many people had died in the accident on Friday.

Four died and five remain missing after the landslide at a mine run by the Lüxin Coal Industry Co. Ltd in Heshun County, Shanxi, according to the local authorities.

mining accident shanxi landslide
Photos: Screenshots from online videos.

The government in Heshun had issued a notice on Sunday saying that no employees were hurt and no equipment had been damaged in the accident. It also asked citizens not to spread, or believe, rumours.

The police also said on Monday that they had detained someone surnamed Guo who spread false information online about fatalities.

But the government said on Tuesday that it was deceived by upper management at the mining firm, and only found out the truth after the company’s legal representative and general manager Gao Yang turned himself in to the police on Monday.

“We were all deceived before,” Zhang Shenlin, chief of the Heshun county government’s information office, told state-backed outlet The Paper.

According to the government, at the time of the accident, ten people were on the scene, but only one escaped. Five excavators and a tanker were also buried.

The head of the country’s coal bureau, who had led a group to investigate the scene of the accident, was fired on Tuesday for his handling of the incident. The police have also released the person who was detained for posting information online and withdrawn the case against them, according to state broadcaster China National Radio.

Zhang told local paper The Beijing News that the mining company had moved the injured and dead employees, and did not report the casualties, “so we could not obtain first-hand information. At the time we understood that there were no [casualties].”

A representative of the county government told Beijing News that the investigation was not conducted thoroughly, leading to a major error that delayed the rescue operation. The representative said that the government would conduct a thorough review of the incident and hold those involved accountable.

According to US-based China Digital Times, a state-owned enterprise – Jinneng Group – holds 51 per cent of shares in the Heshun Lüxin Coal Industry Limited Company through a wholly-owned subsidiary. Gao Yang, the mining company’s head, owns less than 15 per cent of its stock.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.