Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Katharine Snyder
Phone: (703) 235-1452
Wednesday, December 31, 1997
U.S. COAL MINING DEATHS HIT RECORD LOW, WHILE METAL/NONMETAL DEATHS RISE IN 1997
Accidental deaths at coal mines in the United States fell to a record low level for the second consecutive year, but metal and nonmetal mining deaths increased significantly during 1997, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
As of December 31, preliminary figures indicated an all-time low of 30 coal miners died in workplace accidents in 1997, a decrease from the 39 coal miners killed during 1996, a record low at the time. However, fatalities in the metal and nonmetal mining industry increased to 60, the highest total since 1987 when 67 miners died on the job. In 1996, there were 47 deaths in metal and nonmetal mining.
"The coal mining community can take pride in its record low in workplace deaths, but we are by no means satisfied with the fatality numbers overall in the mining industry this year," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "Too many families still suffer the heart-wrenching loss of loved ones to mining accidents which can be prevented."
"MSHA will redouble its efforts in 1998 to reduce and, in time, eliminate accidental deaths from the mining workplace. Significant progress will demand commitment from mine management, miners and government--from all sectors of the mining community," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.
Of the 30 coal mining fatalities that occurred this year, 12 were the result of powered haulage accidents, the leading cause of fatal coal mining accidents. Nine other deaths occurred due to mine roof falls. Eighteen of the fatal coal mining accidents occurred at underground mines while 12 happened at surface mines.
The most fatal coal mining accidents occurred in the state of West Virginia, which had seven deaths, down from 12 in 1996 and 16 in 1995. Kentucky and Virginia had the next highest number of fatal coal mining accidents with five fatalities each during 1997. Kentucky's 1997 figure represented a decrease from 12 coal mining deaths in both 1996 and 1995, while Virginia's marked an increase from three coal mining deaths in 1996 and one in 1995.
Of the 60 metal and nonmetal mining fatalities during 1997, 24 resulted from powered haulage accidents, a category that also lead this industry in fatal accidents. Machinery accidents, the second highest category of fatal accidents, claimed the lives of 10 miners this year.Fifty of the metal and nonmetal mining fatalities occurred at surface mines while ten other miners died at underground mines.
The states of California and Texas had the most metal and nonmetal mining fatalities tallying six each, up from four and three, respectively in 1996. In 1995, California had five mining deaths and Texas had none.
"When we recognized that fatalities were trending upwards in metal and nonmetal mining, we met with industry and labor representatives to discuss the need to reverse the trend," McAteer said. "Steps we took included a mine sweep in which inspectors visited 9,000 metal and nonmetal mines and talked with more than 100,000 miners and supervisors about the fatalities; reallocation of resources; and special programs focusing on concerns such as surface haulage accidents and drownings. These have not yet succeeded; therefore, we will redouble our efforts until we find the right formula to drive down the number of fatalities."
Metal and nonmetal mining deaths in the U.S. averaged 47 annually between 1992 and 1996. All 1997 fatality figures cited are as of December 31, 1997, and are preliminary; in addition tothese figures, two fatalities in the metal and nonmetal sector and one in the coal sector are under investigation to determine whether they were mining-related accidents.
MSHA inspects all mining operations in the nation for adherence to federal safety and health regulations.
# # #
NOTE: Two tables of state-by-state data follow for coal mines and for metal/nonmetal mines
Coal Mining Fatalities by State
1992 - 1997*
Metal and Nonmetal Mining Fatalities by State
*as of 12/31/1997
*as of 12/31/1997