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Mining industry hit record low with 28 deaths in 2015



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U.S mining deaths dropped to a record low in 2015, with 28 miners killed on the job, according to preliminary data released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

By comparison, 45 miners died in work-related accidents in the United States in 2014, according to the agency.

Eleven of the 28 fatalities last year occurred in coal mines, with the leading causes of death being powered haulage and machinery accidents, according to the agency.

The leading causes of death for the 17 fatalities in metal and nonmetal mining were machinery accidents and falling materials, according to the agency.

“While coal mine closures had some effect on the historic low number of mining deaths, actions by MSHA and the mining industry to improve mine safety have been a major factor,” Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said in a statement on Tuesday.

He credited the agency's use of strategic enforcement tools, including special impact inspections that quickly 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.

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

In 2016, one coal miner has been killed in a powered haulage incident at a West Virginia mine, according to the agency.

Last year also marked the mixed verdict in the criminal prosecution of Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy Co., for his role in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 miners in 2010. Mr. Blankenship was acquitted of all felony charges, but convicted of a misdemeanor conspiracy charge for willfully violating U.S. mine health and safety standards and faces up to one year in federal prison when he is sentenced in March.