Preliminary data released by the US Dept of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration indicate that in 2016, 26 miners died in work-related accidents at the nation’s mines-down from 29 in 2015. The figure represents the lowest number of mining deaths ever recorded and only the second year that mining deaths dropped below 30. Currently, approximately 330,000 miners work in more than 13,000 US mines.
Nine of the 26 fatalities occurred in coal mines-four in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, and one each in Alabama, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The leading caused of death were powered haulage and machinery, which accounted for six of the deaths. In 2015 coal mining deaths fell to 12-the previous historic low.
A total of 17 deaths were reported in metal and nonmetal mines in 2016. Mississippi and Texas led with two, followed by one each in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington. The leading causes of death in these mines were machinery accidents and powered haulage, at four each. None of the 17 deaths occurred under-ground. In 2015, 17 miners died in the metal and nonmetal sector.
Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, credited the agency’s use of strategic enforcement tools, including targeted impact inspections that address problem mines quickly, the pattern of violations regulation reigning in chronic violators, special initiatives aimed at preventing deaths that occur commonly, compliance assistance, training and outreach-along with improved compliance by the mining industry.
“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 Main. “We have created a new roadmap to protect our nation’s miners.”