A recent mining accident in southwest China left 21 workers dead. Demand for coal in China is expected to increase in the coming years, so it will become even more important for the country to make mining conditions safer.

A recent mining accident in southwest China left 21 workers dead, according to South China Morning Post. The incident was caused by an outburst of coal and gas, which occurred at the Machang coal mine - owned by the Gemudi Company of Guizhou Water & Mining Group - in the Guizhou Province. Eighty-three miners were working underground at the time of the incident, and 58 were able to get out of the mine safely. Four miners are still missing. Rescue operations are under way, and the cause of the accident is still being investigated.

NDTV pointed out that China's mines are some of the deadliest in the world because of poor regulation, inefficiency and corruption. Coal mining accidents are an unfortunately common occurrence and safety practices are inconsistently enforced by mine owners and regulators. Officially, China reported that 1,973 people died in coal mining accidents in 2011, which is a 19 percent drop from the previous year. Unofficially, civil rights and labor groups say this number is very low and that many accidents aren't reported or are covered up entirely so that mine bosses can limit their financial losses and avoid punishment from authorities.

The coal mining industry in China has grown steadily over the past decade. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, China now consumes 47 percent of the world's coal and uses coal for 70 percent of its energy needs. That number is projected to grow by leaps and bounds, with the country's coal mining industry expected to expand as demand goes up. With the increase in demand, coal suppliers will be under even more pressure to achieve or surpass production goals. It will become even more important for the country to establish safety practices to make coal mining conditions safer. One way would be to perform better mining equipment maintenance, which both improves worker safety conditions and increases efficiency because equipment failures can be minimized or eliminated.