Eleven workers trapped for two weeks by an explosion inside a Chinese gold mine were brought safely to the surface on Sunday.
State broadcaster CCTV showed workers being hauled up one-by-one in baskets on Sunday afternoon, their eyes shielded to protect them after so many days in darkness.
One worker was reported to have died from a head wound following the blast that deposited massive amounts of rubble in the shaft on Jan. 10 while the mine was still under construction.
The fate of 10 others who were underground at the time is unknown. Authorities have detained mine managers for delaying reporting the accident.
The official China Daily said on its website that seven of the workers were able to walk to ambulances on their own.
State broadcaster CCTV showed numerous ambulances parked alongside engineering vehicles at the mine in Qixia, a jurisdiction under Yantai in Shandong province.
Increased supervision has improved safety in China’s mining industry, which used to average 5,000 deaths per year. However, demand for coal and precious metals continues to prompt corner-cutting, and two accidents in Chongqing last year killed 39 miners.
The Indian government on Saturday said over 300,000 people were vaccinated against the COVID-19 in a single day on Friday, the highest daily number since inoculation drive started last week.
"In the last 24 hours, 347,058 people were vaccinated across 6,241 sessions," the federal health ministry said.
According to the ministry, as of Saturday morning nearly 1.4 million people have received COVID-19 shots during 24,408 sessions held across the country.
On Thursday federal Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said COVID-19 vaccines were completely safe and effective and these vaccines will prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the COVID-19 disease.
The inoculation drive against COVID-19 across India began on Jan. 16.
Initially, around 30 million healthcare and frontline workers will be vaccinated, followed by those above 50 years of age and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities numbering around 270 million.
Reports said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers of states will be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the second phase of vaccination drive that will start in March or April.
A Chinese city has brought 2,600 temporary treatment rooms online as the country’s north battles new clusters of coronavirus.
The single-occupancy rooms in the city of Nangong in Hebei province just outside Beijing are each equipped with their own heaters, toilets, showers and other amenities, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Special attention has been paid to Hebei because of its proximity to the capital and the province has locked down large areas to prevent further spread of the virus. The provincial capital Shijiazhung and the city of Xingtai, which encompasses Nangong, have been largely sealed off from the rest of the country. Community isolation and large-scale testing have also been enforced.
China on Saturday marked the anniversary of the start of a 76-day lockdown in the central city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019. A World Health Organization inspection team is in the city to probe the virus’ origins, amid stiff efforts by China to defend its response to the outbreak and promote theories that the virus might have come from elsewhere.
The National Health Commission on Sunday reported 19 additional cases had been detected in Hebei over the previous 24 hours. The far northeastern province of Heilongjiang reported another 29 cases, linked partly to an outbreak at a meat processing plant. Beijing, where around 2 million residents have been ordered to undergo new testing, reported two new confirmed cases.
China currently has 1,800 people being treated for COVID-19, 94 of them listed in serious condition, with another 1,017 being monitored in isolation for having tested positive for the virus without displaying symptoms.
Inside the White House, President Joe Biden presided over a focused launch of his administration, using his first days in office to break sharply with his predecessor while signing executive orders meant as a showy display of action to address the historic challenges he inherited.
But outside the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., there are signs everywhere that those crises are as deep and intractable as ever. The coronavirus pandemic surges, the economy teeters and Republicans in Congress have signaled objections to many of Biden’s plans.
Biden is looking to jump-start his first 100 days in office with action and symbolism to reassure a divided and weary public that help is in the offing. He also knows that what a president can do on his own is limited so he is calling for Congress to act while he is being candid with Americans that dark days are ahead.
“The crisis is not getting better. It’s deepening,” Biden said Friday about the impact of pandemic. “A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted again. Job losses are mounting. We need to act.”
“The bottom line is this: We’re in a national emergency. We need to act like we’re in a national emergency,” he said.
Biden’s first moments as president were meant to steady American democracy itself.
He took the oath just before noon Wednesday in front of a Capitol that still bore scars from the insurrection that took place precisely two weeks earlier and was aimed at stopping Biden’s ascension to power. The violence underscored the fragile nature of the peaceful transfer of power and led to the historic second impeachment of Donald Trump.
Biden resisted calls to move the inauguration to a more secure indoor setting. He was intent on preserving the usual inauguration trappings as a signal that normalcy could be achieved even though there were signs everywhere that things were far from normal: a military presence that resembled a war zone, guests on the dais wearing masks, a National Mall filled with 200,000 American flags standing in for the American people who were asked to stay away because of the pandemic.
Biden was plain-spoken and direct about the confluence of crises the nation faces. More than 410,000 Americans have lost their lives to the pandemic, millions are out of work and the aftershocks of a summer reckoning with racial justice are still felt.
“You can hear this collective sigh of relief that Trump is gone, but we have no time for a sigh of relief because of the cascading crises,” said Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the department of African American studies at Princeton University. “We don’t want to assume that the election of Biden solves everything. The scale of the problems is immense and the question for us is do we respond at scale.”
The changes within the White House have been swift.
After Trump’s departure, his final staffers cleared out and a deep clean began. The White House had been the site of multiple COVID-19 outbreaks and, in a physical manifestation of a new approach to the virus, plastic shields were placed on desks and scores of new staffers were told to work from home.
New pictures were hung on the West Wing walls and the Oval Office received a fast makeover. Gone were a painting of Andrew Jackson and the Diet Coke button of the desk; in came images of Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez. But the most important symbol, the clearest break from the previous administration, came from the president himself.
When Biden sat down at the Resolute Desk to sign his first batch of his executive orders on Wednesday, he was wearing a mask. Trump had resisted wearing one, putting one on only occasionally and instead turning mask-wearing into a polarizing political issue
Biden urged all Americans to wear a mask for the next 100 days and used his platform to model the same behavior, one of several ways he tried to change the tone of the presidency in his first few days.
Daily press briefings returned, absent the accusations of “fake news” that marked only sporadic briefings in the Trump era. Biden held a virtual swearing-in for hundreds of White House staffers, telling them to treat each other with respect or they would dismissed, a marked change from the contentious, rivalry-driven Trump West Wing. Calls to the leaders of Canada and Mexico were made without drama.
The executive actions Biden signed during the week were a mix of concrete and symbolic actions meant to undo the heart of Trump’s legacy. Biden halted construction of the border wall, rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord and bolstered the means for production for vaccines.
But the might of the executive actions pales in comparison to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that he requested from Congress. Biden has not ruled out asking Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to push it through by tactics requiring only Democratic support. But the president, who spent decades in the Senate, hoped to persuade Republicans to support the measure.
“Leaning on executive action makes sense at the start, you can get things going and show momentum right away without waiting for Congress,” said Robert Gibbs, former press secretary for President Barack Obama. “But this is going take a while. Like it was for us in 2009, change doesn’t come overnight.”
“Everything he inherited is likely to get worse before we see improvement,” Gibbs said. “One thing you learn on January 20th is that you suddenly own all of it.”
Just two Cabinet nominees were confirmed by week’s end, to the frustration of the White House. But with the Friday night announcement that Trump’s impeachment trial will not begin until the week of Feb. 8, Biden aides were optimistic that the Senate would confirm more before then.
The trial looms as an unwelcome distraction for the Biden team. But while Trump will shadow the White House, Biden aides have noted that the former president commands far less attention now that his Twitter account is gone. They have expressed confidence that the Senate can balance the impeachment proceedings with both Cabinet confirmations and consideration of the COVID-19 relief bill.
Biden has made clear that steering the nation through the pandemic will be his signature task and some Republicans believe that Trump’s implosion could create an opening to work across the aisle on a relief deal.
“There is a very narrow permission structure for congressional Republicans who want to move past the Trump era and want to establish their own political identities,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who was a senior adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Romney is now a Utah senator.
“There is an old saying: ‘Make the main thing the main thing.’ And the Biden White House knows that’s the main thing,” Madden said. “If they can improve the pandemic response in the next 100 days, then they can move on to other priorities, they’ll have the capital for legislative fights. But they need to get it right.”
One of the keys to President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion clean energy plan could be a mineral that lies in a salt flat above a prehistoric volcano just south of the Oregon-Nevada line.
But the question of how to extract lithium and whether former President Donald Trump’s Department of Interior rushed a mine through the approval process could be an early test for Biden and his nominee for Interior secretary, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued a record of decision on Trump’s final Friday in office for an open-pit lithium mine at Thacker Pass, which is roughly 53 miles (85 kilometers) north of Winnemucca, Nevada.
Lithium Americas, the company behind the mine, believes it can supply a quantity "critical for establishing a strong domestic lithium supply chain required to support a low-carbon economy,” its President and CEO Jon Evans said in a statement.
Lithium, long used for rechargeable batteries found in cellphones and laptops, is expected to become an increasingly valuable commodity if the new administration pushes carmakers to scale up electric vehicle production. But its extraction has splintered environmentalists. While technologists are eager to use it to transition away from carbon-based fuels, conservationists worry about the impact new mines have on endangered species and the environment.
The approval of the mine is among several eleventh-hour decisions issued by Trump’s Department of Interior to advance energy and mining projects, including a West Virginia oil pipeline and an Arizona copper mine on land the San Carlos Apache Tribe considers sacred. Unlike those decisions, which could be reversed, Thacker Pass procured the final federal permit needed to begin construction — one difficult to overturn.
“We are not going to fix the climate if we don’t do it right,” John Hadder, the executive director of Great Basin Resource Watch, said of the approval. “There’s nothing ‘green’ about sloppy permitting.”
Hadder said he worries efforts to usher in a “green revolution” overshadow the need to adhere to established environmental review processes required under federal law.
Shielded by Trump’s executive orders streamlining reviews, he said the project’s environmental impact statement was roughly one-third the length of reviews prepared for similar-sized projects. Hadder said the lithium mine will harm wildlife, including sage grouse, and threaten water and air quality.
Unlike other projects fast-tracked in Trump's final days, lithium production could bolster Biden's plans to transition the economy away from fossil fuels.
The Trump administration listed lithium among the minerals critical to national security and, amid trade disputes, thought mines could help wean the country off of foreign supply. For Biden, boosting domestic production could potentially lower the price tag on a key component of his climate plan: offering rebates to consumers to trade in gas-powered for electric cars.
Biden's Department of Interior did not respond to request for comment, but a Wednesday executive order revoking permits for the Keystone XL oil pipeline mentions plans “to both reduce harmful emissions and create good clean-energy jobs.” And in October, his campaign reportedly told miners that he wanted to increase lithium production domestically.
The enthusiasm could put him at odds with conservationists, who are fighting another proposed Nevada lithium mine they say would destroy Tiehm’s Buckwheat, a desert flower not known to exist elsewhere.
Australia-based mining company Ioneer Ltd. is developing plans to mitigate damage to the flower by trying to grow replacement plants. The executive chairman of its board doesn’t understand why environmentalists want to prevent development of a key element to future “clean energy.”
“Climate change poses an immediate threat to all the species on Earth,” James Calaway said late last year. “This will enable the nation’s transformation from oil and gas drilling to renewable energy.”
Much of the world’s lithium supply comes from Australia and South America, where Chinese firms are heavily invested. Thacker Pass would be the second commercial lithium mine in operation in the U.S., following a central Nevada facility that plans to invest $30 to $50 million to double production. Elsewhere, thousands of claims for the mineral have been staked on federal lands by speculators who anticipate carmakers will expand investments into electric vehicles.
Lithium helped lure Tesla to Nevada. The company opened a massive battery factory near Reno in 2016. The state sees the mineral as key to diversifying its tourism-reliant economy and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak mentioned it specifically in his Tuesday State of the State Address.
Lithium Americas said in a statement that the company now plans to seek financing for the project. Nevada has offered the company $9 million in tax rebates over a 10-year period. The mine is projected to require 1,000 jobs during construction and 300 once completed, generating roughly $75 million in state and local tax revenue over a decade.
Humboldt County Commission Chairman Ken Tipton said the mine has garnered some local opposition, but most support it for the jobs it could bring.
“Anytime a county of our size gets the amount of jobs they’re talking about, it’s a real boon for our economy,” he said.