While the death of a coal miner in West Virginia has brought the total number of fatalities in US mining to eight in 2018, this year remains on track to be the least fatal US mining history.

Including this accident, where Ronald R Taylor was struck by a steel object at Cater Roag Coal’s Morgan Camp mine in Randolph County, four miners have died in coal mines this year, as well as four in separate incidents at metal/non-metal mines. The eight deaths to 5 June this year are an improvement over ten in the same period in 2017 and 13 in the first six months of 2016.

If this pattern continues, 2018 is likely to see 16 fatalities, a significant improvement on the 28 recorded in 2017, and the 53 recorded a decade ago in 2008. If this trend continues, the slight increase in fatalities seen from 2016 to 2017, where the number of deaths increased from 25 to 28, will be reversed. This was the first time that mining fatalities increased from one year to the next since 2012-2013.

A focus on safety around machinery has contributed to the overall reduction in fatalities in US mines. Following the death of a miner at the Gateway Eagle mine in West Virginia last year, when a worker was trapped between a coal rib and a cutter head, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) concluded that: “the mine operator did not provide administrative controls and acceptable work practices to prevent the proximity detection system from being overridden during normal mining operations”.

The International Council on Mining and Metals reported only a single fatality involving equipment in the US in 2017 among its member companies. In February this year, the MSHA announced that a new mobile inspection application system (IAS) would be deployed across the US to aid around 1,500 mine inspectors in their work.

“Enabling mine inspectors to work more efficiently means more time to focus on the health and safety of America’s miners,” said MSHA assistant secretary David G Zatezalo. “MSHA’s Mobile IAS is expected to improve the quality of information by eliminating redundancy and provide more timely information for inspectors.”

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