U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration reports 2019 mine fatalities among lowest on record

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has reported the number of mine fatalities for 2019 may be its lowest level in the agency’s reporting history.

The final count will depend on the conclusion of two incidents still being investigated. The number reported as of Thursday, 24, would be a record low. If both incidents under investigation are deemed chargeable fatalities, the new total, 26, would be the second lowest.

In either case, 2019 marks only the fifth year in the agency’s history in which fatalities were fewer than 30.

Of the 24 fatalities reported, four happened in West Virginia. Another four were reported in Kentucky, and two each were reported in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.

Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont and Wyoming each reported a single fatality.

Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health David G. Zatezalo said 2019’s report reverses a trend of increasing mine fatalities over the previous two years.

“The low number of mining deaths last year demonstrates that mine operators have become more proactive in eliminating safety hazards. But I believe we can do even better,” Zatezalo said. “A disproportionate number of mining deaths involved contractors, and we saw an uptick in electrocution accidents, with three deaths and another two close calls.”

He attributes the decrease to a targeted awareness campaign launched by the administration.

“In response, the Mine Safety and Health Administration launched a targeted compliance assistance effort, visiting thousands of mines to educate miners, operators and contractors on procedures that could prevent accidents like these,” he said.

The administration additionally reported good news in terms of miners’ exposure to dust and particulates, according to the release. Data from more than 147,000 samples hit an all-time low for average concentrations of respirable dust and respirable quartz in underground coal mines.

The exposure to dust and quartz for miners at the highest risk of overexposure hit all-time lows as well.

The administration inspected all underground mines at least four times in 2019, and it inspected surface mines and facilities at least twice, as required by law, according to the release.

Thanks for the share, Rob!