U.S. Mine Accidents Killed 48 in Year

The Massey Energy Co. accident in April that claimed the lives of 29 miners made this the deadliest year for U.S. coal miners in nearly two decades, with 48 workers killed in accidents at mines through Monday.

The Massey accident, combined with six other coal-mine fatalities in West Virginia, also made it that state’s deadliest year since 1974, when 36 miners were killed, according to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.

Nationwide, 55 coal miners were killed in 1992, the most recent year that more than 48 fatalities occurred, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. In 2009, the number of coal miner fatalities had dropped to 18.

The federal mine-safety agency has responded to the increased fatalities with blitz inspections at mines around the country, in which inspectors arrive and take control of phones to ensure that workers underground aren’t tipped off that regulators are on their way. The agency is rewriting regulations to make it easier to shut a mine with a history of serious safety violations.

Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said the industry had improved its safety record in record in recent years, but noted that “the Upper Big Branch fatalities were a sobering reminder that we’ve still have a way to go in ensuring that all our miners return safely after every shift.”

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