In March 2008, a fire broke out in Taiyuan mine in Hegang, killing 13 miners.
In September of the same year, Fuhua mine, in the same area, caught fire, claiming 31 lives. The accident comes after the Chinese government strengthened its efforts to clamp down on unsafe mining operations, by closing small, private mines. The efforts appeared to have been paying off.
In the first nine months of this year, China reported 286 fewer mining-related accidents and 591 fewer deaths than during the same period last year. The death toll is 25 percent lower than last year, according to figures released by the State Administration of Work Safety.
Last year's coal mine deaths were 46.7 percent fewer than in 2004, the figures show.
Fang Xinqiu, an associate professor at the China University of Mining and Technology, said poor management and inaction by mine leaders are behind the deaths at Xinxing.
The mine's gas detectors triggered an alarm 53 minutes before the blast occurred, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.
"State-owned mines have better management compared with smaller mines, but there are still loopholes," he said.
Xie Yaoshe, also an associate professor with the university, said that coal mine owners in China are more willing to pay fines than to spend a great amount of money on workplace safety equipment or personnel training.
However, the two experts, together with Lu Jianzhang, deputy director of the China Coal Research Institute in Beijing, all suggested that gas explosions in China's coal mines are almost unavoidable.
China's complicated geological conditions make it harder to ensure completely safe production in mines compared with the United States, Australia and some other countries, Lu said.
"Different plates move and converge to form the Chinese territory. Coal layers are always squeezed, and accidents are likely to occur under such geological conditions," he said.
The strong demand for coal, especially during winter, will likely prompt coal mines to increase production to meet the needs for winter heating supplies and economic growth, he said.
Many mining accidents occur between October and February, the winter season.
The country has closed 12,000 illegal coal mines since 2005, and has vowed to cut the number of the country's remaining mines to below 10,000 by 2010.
In a separate development, a coal mine blast also occurred Sunday morning in Huaihua, in central China's Hunan Province, killing at least six, according to Xinhua.