A blast in a coal mine killed 73 miners in China's Shanxi province on Sunday and left 65 trapped, Xinhua news agency reported, adding some of the miners used mobile phones to contact relatives.

The agency said 436 miners were working underground when the accident occurred at Shanxi Jiaomei Group's Tunlan mine in Gujiao City near Taiyuan, the provincial capital.

Xinhua said 113 miners were in hospital and 21 were in a critical condition.

A rescuer said some of the trapped miners had managed to phone their relatives. No other details were available.

The gas explosion happened the day after senior provincial officials held a conference about mine safety, in which they pledged to try to put an end to deadly mining accidents.

China's mining industry is the world's most dangerous, although Xinhua said the Tunlan mine had a good reputation because no accidents had occurred in the past decade.

A total of 3,786 coal miners died in gas blasts, floodings and other accidents in 2007 as companies, often flouting safety regulations, rushed to feed demand from a booming economy.

The number of deaths fell to 2,690 in the first 10 months of 2008 after thousands of small unsafe mines across the country were closed.

China is continuing to push for the closure of small mines, many of which are struggling to remain open because demand from the electricity and steel sectors, their main customers, has slumped in recent months.

The mine where Sunday's blast took place makes coking coal for the steel industry and can produce 5 million tonnes a year, Xinhua said.

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