MSHA: 29 miners died in 2020

By |  January 13, 2021

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The Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) reports there were 29 mining fatalities in 2020, making it the sixth consecutive year mining fatalities were below 30.

Among the 29 fatalities, five occurred in coal mines – a historic low.

MSHA reports that three deaths occurred in Kentucky and Louisiana; two each in Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia; and one each in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.

Additional details

After a two-year increase in 2017 and 2018 when about half of all deaths resulted from powered haulage accidents such as vehicle-on-vehicle collisions, failure to use a functioning seat belt and conveyor belt accidents, MSHA responded with a multifaceted education campaign and initiated rulemaking. By 2020, MSHA says powered haulage deaths dropped to 21 percent.

2020 marked the first year in MSHA’s history with no seat belt-related deaths, and conveyor-related deaths dropped from four in 2017 to one in 2020.

“In 2020 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety & Health Administration focused on improving safety in several areas, including falls from height and truck-loading operations,” says David Zatezalo, assistant secretary at MSHA. “We also focused on chronic problem areas, such as disproportionate accidents among contractors and inexperienced miners.

“In 2019, contractor deaths accounted for 41 percent of deaths at mines,” Zatezalo adds. “In 2020, they were 28 percent.”

As required, MSHA inspected all underground mines at least four times per year and surface mines at least twice per year in 2020 – in a year when 15 percent of inspectors self-identified as high-risk for the coronavirus under Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines. Between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, MSHA issued 195 citations for sanitary conditions that could have contributed to coronavirus, MSHA says.

According to MSHA, 2020 also saw all-time-low average concentrations of respirable dust and respirable quartz in underground coal mines, as well as exposure to dust and quartz for miners at highest risk of overexposure to respirable dust.

About 230,000 miners work across 11,500 metal/nonmetal mines in the U.S., while 64,000 work in the nation’s 1,000 coal mines.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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