MSHA: Mining deaths drop to all-time lows

By |  January 5, 2016

Preliminary Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) data indicate that 28 miners died in 2015 in work-related accidents at U.S. mines. That figure is down from 45 in 2014.

The 28 represent the fewest number of mining deaths ever recorded and the first year that mining deaths dropped below 30, according to MSHA.

Seventeen of the deaths occurred in metal and nonmetal mines. Nevada had the most with four, followed by Missouri with two, and one each in California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The leading cause of death in these mines was machinery accidents, which led to five deaths. Falling materials killed four miners.

The other 11 deaths occurred in coal mines – three in Pennsylvania; two each in Kentucky, Illinois and West Virginia; and one each in Alabama and Virginia. The leading causes were powered haulage and machinery accidents, which accounted for six deaths.

“While record-low numbers have been achieved, we are mindful that things could change in a heartbeat if we let down our guard,” says Joe Main, MSHA’s assistant secretary of labor. “There is still much more to be done to ensure that miners go home after every shift, safe and healthy.”

Main credits the decline to the agency’s use of strategic enforcement tools, including special impact inspections that address problem mines and the retooled Pattern of Violations procedure that targets mines with chronic violations, along with compliance assistance, training and outreach efforts to the mining industry.

MSHA took a proactive approach in the metal and nonmetal mining sector to reverse the upward trend of mining deaths that started in October 2013. On the heels of a particularly deadly day in August 2015, when three miners died at three separate operations, MSHA collaborated with stakeholders to launch one of its most aggressive enforcement and outreach efforts across the country.

For the next 134 days, no metal and nonmetal mining deaths occurred in the nation’s mines, passing the previous record in 2010 of 82 consecutive days without a mining fatality, according to MSHA.

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

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