Riskiest Business

In his travels in China in the 13th century, Marco Polo was amazed at the widespread burning of coal. He referred to the fuel as "black stones," and reported that "they may be had in the greatest abundance, and at a cheap rate." Today, China is the world's largest coal producer, increasing output each year to feed its rapidly growing economy. But the cost in human lives is anything but low. Thousands of miners die in China's coal mines every year. The government put the number at 6,434 last year, but labor- and human-rights groups say the true count could be...

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