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DOL/MSHA News Release No. 02-10
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Kathy Snyder
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Released Wednesday, January 2, 2002

MINING DEATHS DROP TO NEW LOW IN 2001

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Fatal injuries at mines in the United States declined last year to a historic new low, according to preliminary data released today by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The data indicate that 72 miners died in on-the-job accidents nationwide in 2001, the lowest figure on record and 13 fewer mine deaths than in calendar 2000.

"A good year would be zero fatalities, because even one death is unacceptable," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We must keep working together to reduce mine accidents in 2002."

Lauriski last year challenged the mining industry to reduce fatal accidents by 15 percent each year. "Preliminary numbers indicate that the mining industry met that challenge in 2001," Lauriski said.

The nation's metal and nonmetal mining sector set a historic low record with 30 fatalities during 2001, compared with 47 in 2000. The previous metal and nonmetal low fatality record was 40, in 1994. The metal and nonmetal mining sector produces metals such as copper and gold, and nonmetallic minerals such as salt, stone, sand and gravel.

Lauriski said, "The metal and nonmetal mining industry has shown what can be done, with its safest year on record."

In the coal sector, mine fatalities increased by four to 42 in 2001. Thirteen miners died in an explosion last September at the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 mine in Brookwood, Ala. The accident remains under investigation.

"The Brookwood accident was heartbreaking because miners lost their lives in a heroic attempt to save the lives of others," Lauriski said. "We will determine the cause and share the information with everyone in the mining industry to help prevent future tragedies."

For more details on mine fatalities in 2001, see MSHA's web site at www.msha..gov.