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Coal Mine Fatalities at Record Low in 2015

Austin Ramsey, WKMS

Eleven coal miners died on the job in 2015, marking a new record low for coal mine deathsin the U.S. Two of the victims were in Kentucky.

This was the lowest number of coal mining deaths since the Mine Safety and Health Administration began keeping track. Forty-seven miners were killed in 2006 — the year an explosion at the Sago Mine in West Virginia killed 12.

Another recent spike in coal deaths was in 2010, with 48 deaths. That year, an explosion at another West Virginia coal mine — Upper Big Branch — killed 29.

Coal Mine Deaths
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This year’s numbers continue a three-year decline in coal mine deaths. In the past, the federal government has cited increased inspections as one of the reasons for the decline. Since the Upper Big Branch explosion, MSHA has been targeting mines with spotty safety records for surprise impact inspections.

Of course, as the number of coal mine fatalities has declined, so has the number of people employed in U.S. coal mines. Appalachian coal has been particularly hard hit, but the Energy Information Administration’s latest datashow drops in employment for every one of the nation’s coal basins between 2012 and 2013.

Erica Peterson is a reporter and Kentucky Public Radio correspondent based out of WFPL in Louisville, Kentucky.
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