Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452
Released Tuesday, January 5, 1999
NUMBER OF U.S. MINING DEATHS DECLINES IN 1998
Accidental deaths at mines in the United States declined by 12 percent last year, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Eighty miners died from work-related injuries in 1998, compared to 91 in 1997.
"These deaths represent a very real tragedy to the families and friends of the 80 miners who lost their lives last year," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Hopefully, we will learn from these accidents and will prevent future ones, because the loss of even one miner's life is far too many."
Last year saw the fewest mining-related fatalities, based on records dating back to 1869. The previous low was achieved in 1994, when 85 miners died on the job.
In the nation's coal mines, preliminary figures indicated fewer deaths occured for the third consecutive year, with 29 fatalities in 1998, down from 30 in 1997, and 39 in 1996.
Deaths in the metal and nonmetal sector -- although dropping from 61 in 1997 to 51 in 1998 -- are still too high, noted McAteer.
"It became clear to this Agency last year that we needed to devote even greater resources to combat the rise in metal and nonmetal mining fatalities," said McAteer. "Those efforts appear to be helping, with ten fewer deaths in 1998. However," he added, "there's still much work to be done, and there are additional concerns that we must address.
"Our efforts along with the efforts of unions and working miners as well as company officials have contributed to this successful undertaking, but those efforts need to be increased in order to reach our common goal of a fatality-free mining industry," McAteer said.
Those additional concerns revolve around last year's passage of a $217 billion highway construction bill, which will likely prompt increased demand for crushed stone used in building new roads. "This means a surge in jobs, many going to new, inexperienced miners," said McAteer. "We must ensure that each one of these new miners receives the training he or she deserves to recognize hazards and avoid accidents. The agency is currently working on new regulations for training."
Of the 51 metal and nonmetal mining fatalities during 1998, 21 involved powered haulage equipment, still the leading cause of fatal injuries in the mining industry, but down from 24 in 1997. Slips and falls of a person, the second highest category of fatal accidents, claimed the lives of eight metal and nonmetal miners this year. Eight of the year's fatalities occurred at underground mines; while 43 happened at surface mines.
Texas had the most metal and nonmetal mining fatalities for the second consecutive year, with five, down from six in 1997.
Of the 29 coal mining fatalities that occurred in 1998, 13 were the result of roof falls, the leading cause of fatal coal mining accidents. Eight other deaths occurred due to powered haulage accidents. Twenty-two of the fatal coal mining accidents occurred at underground mines, while seven happened at surface mines.
The highest number of fatal coal mining accidents occurred in Kentucky, which had 12 deaths, up from five in 1997. West Virginia and Virginia had the next highest number of fatal coal mining accidents with six and five, respectively, during 1998. West Virginia's 1998 figures represented a slight decrease from 7 coal mining deaths in 1997, while Virginia's remained the same.
"Naturally, we are pleased that the number of coal mining deaths continues to decline and that the last three years have represented record lows, but we are by no means going to become complacent," said McAteer. "MSHA will continue in its efforts to prevent miners from suffering fatal injuries and, ultimately, to eliminate fatal accidents altogether."
MSHA inspects all mining operations in the nation for adherence to federal safety and health regulations.
Coal Mining Fatalities By State As of 12/31/1998
States that are not listed had no coal mining fatalities from 1993 through 1998.
Metal and Nonmetal Fatalities by State As of 12/31/1998
The states of Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, North Dakota, and Rhode Island had no fatalities in metal and non-metal mines from 1992 through 1998.