World Bulletin / News Desk
State news agency Xinhua reported that the 13 miners were trapped early Monday morning around 500 meters (1,640 feet) underground in the shaft, which the chief of Benxi city's work safety bureau said was hidden under a coal washing plant.
Hao Chijun said the colliery at the site was supposed to have ceased operation in 2004.
The shaft had only one entrance hidden behind a row of cabinets in a bathroom, whereas Hao said mine shafts need to have at least two -- one for miners and another for coal and ventilation.
Initial investigation results indicated that the fire was caused by a compressor -- machinery the government has sought to eliminate due to their risk of bursting into flames.
The illegal mine’s owner, who has been placed in custody, is accused of not reporting Monday’s fire on time and delaying the arrival of rescuers by at least eight hours.
In recent years, China has produced more than one-third of the world's annual coal output, but accounted for more than two-thirds of global mining deaths annually, according to Mining Technology.
In late March, 19 people died after a coal mine collapsed in northern Shanxi Province while 129 workers were working underground.
In May, a gas explosion at a coal mine killed at least six people in southwest Yunnan province.