U.S. hits record low for coal mine fatalities in 2015

Preliminary data released by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration indicate that 28 miners died in 2015 in work-related accidents at the nation’s various mines, down from 45 in 2014.

The figure represents the lowest number of mining deaths ever recorded and the first year that mining deaths dropped below 30.

Eleven of the 28 deaths occurred in coal mines – three in Pennsylvania; two each in Kentucky, Illinois and West Virginia; and one each in Alabama and Virginia. The leading causes were powered haulage and machinery accidents, which accounted for six deaths.

Of the 17 deaths in metal and nonmetal mining, Nevada led with four, followed by Missouri with two, and one each in California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The leading cause of death in these mines was machinery accidents, which led to five deaths, followed by falling materials that killed four miners.

“While coal mine closures had some effect on the historic low number of mining deaths, actions by MSHA and the mining industry to improve mine safety have been a major factor,” MSHA head Joseph A. Main. Main credited the agency’s use of strategic enforcement tools, including special impact inspections that quickly address problem mines and the retooled Pattern of Violations procedure that targets mines with chronic violations, along with compliance assistance, training and outreach efforts to the mining industry.

Coal mining deaths had dropped from 20 in 2013 to 16 in 2014, which at the time was the lowest annual number of coal mining deaths ever recorded in the United States. The previous record low had been 18 in 2009.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.