The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration released data on July 10 showing that in 2012 there was the lowest fatality and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining, along with the lowest rate of contractor fatalities since the agency began calculating those rates in 1983.
Thirty-six miners died on the job in 2012. That total includes the Dec. 28 death of a coal miner at the Choctaw mine in Walker County, Ala., that was recently deemed chargeable to the mining industry. Five contractors died in mining accidents in 2012, compared to 11 in 2011, nearly half the lowest number ever recorded.
“While more needs to be done to protect the nation’s miners, we are moving mine safety in the right direction. The actions undertaken by MSHA and the mining community were the key to the continuing improvements we saw in 2012,” said MSHA head Joseph Main. “All miners deserve the safest possible working conditions.”
Compliance with the 1977 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act also continued to improve in 2012, with an 18% reduction in violations cited by MSHA since 2010. As a result, penalties for violations dropped. Although the number of mines in the U.S. decreased slightly (from 14,176 in 2011 to 14,093 in 2012), the number of miners increased from 381,209 to 387,878.
In 2012, the fatality rate was .0110 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. The rate of reported injuries was 2.56 per 200,000 hour worked. These reductions replace the prior year’s record historical low rates.
The number of citations and orders that MSHA issued fell from 156,802 in 2011 to 139,770 in 2012, an 11% decrease. Penalty assessments dropped from $160.8m in 2011 to $120.5m in 2012.
In coal mining, 20 miners died in on-the-job accidents in 2012, the second lowest number ever. The fatality rate was .0159 deaths per 200,000 hours worked, also the second lowest ever recorded. The rate of reported injuries was 3.16 per 200,000 hours worked, the lowest ever recorded. The number of citations and orders issued declined, from 93,330 in 2011 to 79,250 in 2012, a 15% reduction.
The coal industry saw decreases in the number of mines (from 1,973 to 1,871) and in production (from 1,095 to 1,018 million tons) between 2011 and 2012. While the number of coal miners also decreased from a decades-long high of 143,437 in 2011 to 137,650 in 2012, it was the second highest for any year since 1994.