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Coal Mining Fatalities Increased Sharply in 2006


Updated August 12, 2007

The plight of the six miners trapped in Utah's Crandall Canyon Mine ads tragic emphasis to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing that fatal work injuries in coal mining more than doubled in 2006 partially due to the Sago, West Virginia mine disaster. Twelve miners died after being trapped for two days due to a Jan. 2, 2006 explosion in the Sago coal mine.

According to the BLS' 2006 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, a total of 47 coal miners died on the job in 2006, up from 22 in 2005. The fatality rate for coal mining jumped 84 percent in 2006 to 49.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers, up from 26.8 in 2005. Of the 47 coal miners killed in 2006, a total of 21 died in 4 multiple-fatality incidents.

Reacting to the Sago mine disaster, the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 -- The MINER Act -- was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush on June 15, 2006. The MINER Act, the most significant mine safety legislation in 30 years, amends the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and contains a number of provisions to improve safety and health in America's mines. Under the MINER Act, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued new federal regulations in December 2006 intended to improve mine safety.

In response to the 2006 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the National Mining Association (NMA) called for swift and complete implementation of the MINER Act. "NMA believes that the coal community’s full compliance with the MINER Act ... will yield not only significant safety improvements but also valuable insights into further steps that can be taken to realize our goal of zero fatalities," stated the NMA in a press release.

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