MSHA: Mining deaths reach record low

January 7, 2010

Mining fatalities in 2009 hit an all-time low for the second straight year, according to preliminary data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Last year, 34 mining deaths occurred -- 18 in coal mines and 16 in metal and nonmetal mines -- compared with 53 deaths in 2008.

In a press release, MSHA administrator Joseph A. Main attributed the decline partially to enforcement. He also stressed the ultimate goal of zero mining fatalities and said more must be done to protect miners' health. MSHA launched a program late last year to end coal workers' pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung disease. According to a Dec. 25 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from black lung disease have declined 73 percent to 300 per year from 2002 to 2006 from 1,106 per year from 1968 to 1972. However, an increase in the condition has been observed among young workers. CDC said possible causes of the increase include inadequate enforcement standards, increased coal production per shift and longer work hours.