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Shanxi to Build 200 Schools in Mine Areas

Coal-rich Shanxi Province will build 200 new schools and kindergartens in areas affected by the mining industry and renovate 100 existing ones this year, acting Governor Meng Xuenong said yesterday.

Speaking at the opening of the 11th Shanxi Provincial People's Congress, Meng said the school program is the first of 10 key programs the provincial government will carry out this year.

The mining industry has changed the landscape of the province and affected the daily lives of residents, he said.

A recent report by the Shanxi provincial department of land and resources showed that more than 1,000 sq km of land has subsided near nine major State-run coal mines in the province, destroying or damaging 312 schools.

Meng, who became both vice-governor and acting governor of Shanxi in September, also said the province will build or expand 500 schools in cities and towns this year.

The authorities have increased investment in education in recent years.

Finance Minister Xie Xuren said that in the first 11 months of last year, authorities spent 558 billion yuan (US$77 billion) on education, up almost 33 percent on the same period in 2006.

Shanxi is the country's top coal producer but mining accidents and environmental degradation are perennial concerns.

Land subsidence resulting from years of coal mine exploitation has affected more than 600,000 people in the province, official figures have shown.

Provincial authorities will also this year build 21,000 new houses for families affected by the subsidence, Meng said in the report.

(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2008)

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