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MSHA News Release No. 97-0403
Mine Safety and Health Administration
For Release: 9:00 a.m. EST
Contact: Kathrine Snyder
Phone: (703) 235-1452
After Hours: (703) 522-4527

Thurs., April 3, 1997

RISE IN MINE DEATHS CONCERNS FEDERAL OFFICIALS

A steep rise in metal and nonmetal mining deaths this year has Federal mine safety officials looking hard at mine safety concerns outside the coal industry. From January 1 through March 31, 1997, 18 employees in the mining industry's non-coal sector died in accidents, compared with 10 in the same period last year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported.

"We in MSHA are not sure what's caused the increase, but we are seeing some indications of patterns in the accidents," said Davitt McAteer, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. "We've asked leaders of industry and labor organizations in the metal and nonmetal mining industry to meet with us and critically examine what it will take to turn this around."

Concentrations of metal and nonmetal mining deaths have occurred in several mining regions during recent years. From January 1994 through March 1997, 18 Nevada miners lost their lives in accidents, 3 of them in 1997. California saw 16 miner deaths in the same period, including 4 this year. Missouri has had 9 metal and nonmetal mining fatalities from 1994 through March 1997, including 1 this year.

Smaller concentrations of metal and nonmetal mining fatalities from 1994 through March 1997 occurred in Pennsylvania (8), Arizona (6), Florida (6), Georgia (6), Texas (6), Virginia(5), and Washington (5).

MSHA has temporarily assigned 10 metal and nonmetal mine inspectors from other areas of the country to areas of special concern. Eight of the 10 were assigned to the agency's Western District, covering Nevada and California, where a number of recent fatalities were concentrated.

In addition, MSHA has moved to deploy training personnel, engineers and other specialists who will conduct special safety meetings, technical surveys and other activities focused on accident prevention in metal and nonmetal mines, especially where deaths have concentrated.

"Specialists will focus their efforts on areas of current safety concern. In addition, MSHA's metal and nonmetal mine inspectors will highlight the recent fatalities with mine operators and miners during their regular inspections," McAteer said.

"Many of the recent fatalities in this industry have occurred during operation of vehicles and other mobile equipment," McAteer said. "Maintenance, repair and construction all are hazardous activities for metal and nonmetal miners. In addition, we are concerned about the number of fatalities due to ground collapses. Our specialists will emphasize these safety issues."

McAteer noted that crushed stone, sand and gravel, and gold and silver operations have experienced a disturbing number of fatal accidents. Crushed stone operations have accounted for 65 miner deaths since 1994; sand and gravel operations experienced 30, and gold and silver operations had 25 deaths since 1994.

In addition, independent contractors working at mine sites have accounted for a disproportionate number of mine fatalities. Safety at cement operations is another concern, with two dual-fatality accidents at cement kilns last year.

"We are asking mining industry and labor groups to work with us in addressing these concerns," McAteer said.

In addition, McAteer urged miners and mine operators to educate themselves about recent fatal accidents. MSHA accident investigation reports on mine fatalities are available on the agency's World Wide Web site at www.msha.gov in the section on accident, injury, illness, employment and coal production information. MSHA also posts preliminary information about fatal accidents under investigation.

"We need to learn from each accident to prevent the next," McAteer said.

The U.S. metal and nonmetal (non-coal) mining industry includes about 230,000 employees at underground and surface operations producing metals, nonmetallic minerals, stone, cement, sand and gravel.

In the coal industry, fatalities stood at 7 this year as of March 31, compared with 10 at the same time in 1996.

1997 Fatal Accidents at Metal and Nonmetal Mines
January 1 - March 31, 1997
Preliminary data
CaseStateDateType of operationType of accident
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
Wash.
Nev.
Nev.
Fla.
Tenn.
Nev.
Calif.
Ore.
Texas
Mo.
Kans.
S.C.
Kans.
Calif.
Fla.
Calif.
Calif.
Texas
1/8
1/14
1/15
1/17
2/3
2/5
2/3
2/3
2/14
2/15
2/17
2/20
2/24
2/26
3/6
3/13
3/15
3/24
Sand and gravel
Gold
Gold
Cement
Zinc
Gold
Sand and gravel
Stone
Stone
Stone
Sand and gravel
Gold
Sand and gravel
Iron
Stone
Gold
Sand and gravel
Sand and gravel
Machinery
Haulage (conveyor)
Haulage (loader)
Fall of person
Fall of roof
Fall of roof
Haulage (conveyor)
Haulage (truck)
Haulage (loader)
Fall of highwall
Haulage (truck)
Haulage (truck)
Haulage (truck)
Fall of highwall
Exploding vessel
Haulage (truck)
Machinery
Haulage (conveyor)

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