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MSHA News Release No. 2000-0106
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Released Thursday, January 6, 2000

Mining Deaths Up in 1999

Fatal injuries at mining operations in the United States last year increased 7 percent above the record low of 1998, according to preliminary data from the U. S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Eighty-seven miners died in on-the-job accidents in 1999, compared with the all-time low of 80 deaths reported during 1998.

In the nation's coal mines, 34 miners died in fatal accidents during 1999 compared to 29 in 1998. In metal and nonmetal mining (non-coal mines), 53 workers were the victims of fatal accidents last year, up from 51 deaths reported the previous year.

"The loss of any miner is unacceptable," Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman said. "We must continue to do everything we can to make this industry safer."

The fatality rate between the 1990-94 period and the 1995-1999 period improved from an average of 103 deaths to an average of 88 deaths. "The overall decline in mining deaths is important, but last year's increase shows us that there can never be too much vigilance," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

Preliminary data show that of the 34 accidental coal mining deaths last year, 18 occurred in underground coal mines. The leading cause of coal mining fatalities were falls of mine roof or rib which accounted for 12 fatalities, followed by powered haulage and machinery accidents with five and four deaths, respectively.

Thirteen of the 53 metal and nonmetal fatalities occurred at underground mining operations, while the remaining accidents occurred at surface mines. Powered haulage was the leading cause of accidental deaths in the metal and nonmetal mining industry, claiming the lives of 18 miners. Machinery accidents were the cause of eight fatalities, the second highest cause of accidental deaths.

Kentucky and West Virginia had the highest number of fatal coal mining accidents with nine each. Virginia followed with four mining deaths in 1999. Nevada led the nation with nine metal and nonmetal fatalities. Alabama, Indiana, Arizona, Kansas and Mississippi were next with three deaths each during 1999.