While U.S. coal production is declining, so evidently is the number of coal miners who die on the job, according to preliminary figures from the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
There were nine coal miners killed in work-related accidents during 2016. There were four in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, and one each in Alabama, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The leading causes of death were powered haulage and machinery, which accounted for six of the deaths, MSHA said in a Jan. 3 news release.
In 2015, coal mining deaths fell to 12 – the previous historic low.
A total of 16 deaths were reported in metal and nonmetal mines in 2016, MSHA said. That amounts to a total of 25 mining-related deaths during 2016, which is down from 29 in 2015.
The figure represents the lowest number of mining deaths ever recorded and only the second year that total mining deaths dropped below 30.
“While these deaths show that more needs to be done to protect our nation’s miners, we have reached a new era in mine safety in the past few years,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main.
“Each year since 2009, injury rates have dropped, and the number of mining deaths and fatality rates were less than in all prior years in history except in 2010, when the Upper Big Branch mine disaster occurred,” Main said.
The Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion resulted in West Virginia resulted in the death of 29 workers. Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was eventually sentenced to a year in prison for conspiracy to willfully violate mine health and safety standards.
“We are proud of our industry for showing continued progress because it exemplifies our commitment to making American mines the world’s safest and our determination to return every miner home safely after every shift,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn. “This safety milestone confirms the value of our voluntary safety initiatives and our determination to achieve excellence in mine safety and health year after year.”