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Fatal injuries from mining incidents declined in 2019 and miner exposure to respirable dust and quartz fell to an all-time low, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration reported Thursday.
In 2019, 24 mining workers were killed, the fewest number of fatalities ever recorded and only the fifth year in MSHA’s 43-year history when mining fatalities fell below 30.
Kentucky and West Virginia both reported four deaths, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas each reported two deaths, and a single death was reported in each of the following states: Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont and Wyoming.
In 2019, MSHA conducted 37,471 inspections at nearly 13,000 mines — which includes the mandatory four annual inspections for underground mines and two annual inspections for surface facilities, as required by law.
A disproportionate number of the 2019 mining deaths involved contractors, and more of the deaths were attributed to electrocution than in years past, MSHA said in a statement. About a quarter of the 2019 deaths were caused by powered haulage incidents; those incidents accounted for approximately half of miner fatalities in 2017 and 2018.
MSHA also collected nearly 150,000 mine samples in 2019, finding that average concentrations of respirable dust and quartz were at an all-time low in underground coal mines, and at the second lowest average recorded in metal/nonmetal mines since 2009.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a $5,000 fine to a Pennsylvania mining company for its failure to notify regulators of a major health and safety incident within 15 minutes.