China’s mining sector recorded a 20% decline in fatalities in 2009 compared to 2008, a drop attributed to the closure of a number of dangerous mines, China’s State Administration of Coal Mine Safety said.

Many illegal private mines considered to be dangerous have either been shut or converted into state-owned entities, according to the government.

State Administration of Coal Mine Safety head Zhao Tiechui, speaking with Xinhua news agency, said mishaps in 2009 caused 2,631 fatalities, representing a 22% fall compared to 2008.

This means that in 2009, an estimated 7.2 fatalities were reported daily compared to 8.8 a day the year before.

Last year the number of coal mine accidents declined by 338 to 1,616 compared to 2008.

Zhao said that there was a fall in fatalities and accidents as the country was focusing on eliminating unlawful activities in its mining sector.

“Small coal mines, which produce 35% of the country’s coal, were responsible for 70% of the fatalities,” Zhao said.

In 2009 1,088 small coal mines were shut down, according to Xinhua.

Most mining accidents in China occurred due to a lack of training and equipment, lax safety methods, and a rush to meet the country’s insatiable coal demand.