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DOL/MSHA News Release No. 04-03
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Suzy Bohnert
Phone: (202) 693-9420

Released Monday, January 6, 2004

MSHA Reports Mining Industry Sets Best Safety Record Since 1910

ARLINGTON, Va. - Mining fatalities in 2003 were at their lowest level since statistics were first recorded in 1910, according to preliminary numbers released today by the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

In 2003, mining-related fatalities decreased 18 percent from 2002 figures. The total number of miners killed in mining accidents was 55, compared with 67 in 2002. This is the third consecutive year of decreased fatalities for the mining industry. "We are encouraged by three years of steady improvement, yet we will not be satisfied until every miner goes home safely to his or her family every working day," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We must maintain focus and continue this progress."

Fatalities in the nation's metal and nonmetal mining sector dropped from 40 in 2002 to 26 in 2003. In the coal sector, mine fatalities totaled 29 in 2003 versus 27 in 2002. "MSHA developed new alliances for safety and health in 2003, gave special attention to small mines, enhanced outreach efforts, and emphasized compliance assistance," Lauriski said. "We continued a balanced use of the tools provided by law: enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance. The efforts of all involved have achieved the positive results we were reaching for, and we plan to stay on this track."

For the first time since 1910, MSHA recorded no fatalities in December for the coal sector of the industry. December fatalities dropped from six in all mining sectors in 2002 to one in 2003 as MSHA continued its safety outreach campaign to alert miners about winter weather and the hazards it can bring to the workplace. Fatalities involving falls from the roofs of coal mines, previously a leading cause of deaths, dropped to two in 2003. "Miners and the mining industry can be proud of their contribution to the new low record," Lauriski said. "More and more mines are making safety a value in every part of their operations each day, and this is moving us toward a true culture of prevention-the key to improved performance."

MSHA gathers mining fatality data from the 50 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. To view these statistics on the Internet, go to www.msha.gov. Under the statistics heading, click on fatality charts.