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DOL/MSHA News Release No. 03-03
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (202) 693-9400

Released Thursday, January 2, 2003

Mining Deaths Drop To New Low In 2002

ARLINGTON, Va. - For the second consecutive year, fatal injuries at mines in the United States declined to an historic new low, according to preliminary data released today by the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The data indicate that 67 miners died in on-the-job accidents nationwide in 2002, the lowest figure on record and five fewer mine deaths than in 2001, the previous record-setting year.

"While the mining industry has made tremendous progress over the past two years, we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to reduce not only fatal incidents, but also accidents causing injury and illness," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski. "In pursuing the critical value of safety, our efforts will continue to emphasize a balanced approach of enforcement, education and training, and technical support," he added.

Fatalities in the nation's coal mining sector dropped dramatically in 2002, setting an unprecedented low with 27 deaths, compared with 42 in 2001. The previous coal low fatality record was 29, set in 1998.

In the metal and nonmetal sector, mine fatalities totaled 40 in 2002, equaling the second lowest figure on record, compared with 30 in 2001. Mines in this category produce metals such as copper, silver and gold, and nonmetallic minerals such as salt, limestone, and sand and gravel.

"Last year, the majority of metal and nonmetal fatal accidents occurred during maintenance, repair and construction activity," said Lauriski. "To prevent these types of accidents, MSHA launched a number of outreach programs to assist mine operators." Lauriski also noted that the Agency opened a new Office of Small Mine Safety in 2002 specifically to address the problems small mine operations face.

Powered haulage equipment accidents, the leading cause of fatalities in the mining industry, contributed to 16 deaths in metal/nonmetal mines and seven deaths in coal mines.

For further details on U.S. mining statistics, visit MSHA's web site at www.msha.gov.