Miner Deaths Increase Amid Low Coal Employment

A unreasonable of deadly spark mining accidents in a Ohio Valley segment pushed a nation’s sum series of mining deaths to a spin not seen given 2015, sparking regard among reserve advocates.

Already this year 12 miners have died on a pursuit in a U.S., compared with 8 fatalities in all of 2016. Two miners were killed in Kentucky and 6 in West Virginia.

Mine reserve experts contend this spike in deadly accidents is discouraging given it comes during a time when distant fewer miners are operative compared with new years, and during a presidential administration dire to fast boost spark prolongation and hurl behind regulations.


On Jun 13, 2017, a 32-year-old continual mining appurtenance user was fatally harmed when he was pinned between a knife conduct of a remote tranquil continual mining appurtenance and a spark rib.

At a convene final month in Huntington, West Virginia, President Trump returned to a favorite theme.

“I adore a spark miners and they’re entrance behind strong,” Trump said.

Mining practice has increasing somewhat given Trump took office. But maestro cave reserve disciple Davitt McAteer pronounced he worries that a spark quip brings risks for miners. McAteer led a U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, during a Clinton administration, and has conducted investigations of mining disasters given then.

“You don’t wish to move them behind and send miners to their deaths given you’re not profitable courtesy to safety,” McAteer said. “I’m really most in preference of bringing a miners back. It’s a doubt of, are they brought behind in a proceed that protects them?”

Last year was a safest in a country’s spark mining history, with 8 fatalities. The 12 fatalities so distant this year match a sum from 2015, a year when there were scarcely 25,000 some-more people employed by spark companies, according to MSHA data.

Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

That has cave reserve experts like McAteer concerned. They indicate to a few factors that could be contributing to a arise in mining deaths: an boost in fresh miners, a probable spin divided from despotic reserve enforcement, and a care blank in a nation’s tip cave reserve agency.

Safety Vacancy

McAteer remarkable that for a initial 7 months of a Trump administration there was no one in a position he once hold during MSHA.

“For that position to go empty says we’re not profitable courtesy to this. And in fact conditions like we’re saying in West Virginia and opposite a country, of increasing fatalities, come about when we’re not profitable attention,” McAteer said.

President Trump allocated Congressional assistance and White House adviser Wayne Palmer behaving secretary of MSHA on Aug. 22, until a permanent appointment is made. The United Mine Workers of America pronounced in a statement that Palmer has no knowledge in mining or health and safety.

On Sept. 2, a White House announced a president’s vigilant to designate a former West Virginia spark association executive to a tip MSHA post. David Zatezalo was a tip executive during Rhino Resources, that operates mines in West Virginia and Kentucky.

The  company was a focus of MSHA scrutiny following what regulators called a pattern of violations and a miner’s death during one cave and allegations of interference in cave inspections during another.      

Although a group lacks a leader, it has announced a new proceed to safety: what’s called a “compliance assistance” program. An group information research showed that fresh miners were some-more expected to be harmed or killed. Seven of a fatalities this year have concerned miners who had one year or reduction knowledge during a cave where they died.


On May 18, 2017, an application miner perceived deadly injuries when his conduct strike a cave roof and/or roof support.

In response, MSHA pronounced in Jun it would “encourage cave operators to attend and share information” about new miners on a job.

That raises a red dwindle for Kentucky counsel and cave reserve disciple Tony Oppegard.

“Every time there is this de-emphasis on coercion and an importance on ‘compliance assistance’ a deadliness rate always goes up,” Oppegard said.

Compliance Assistance

Oppegard pronounced a categorical pursuit for MSHA and a inspectors is to make a laws and regulations during mines, and a infancy of spark mining deaths are caused by violations of reserve regulations.

“You know, it’s tough to pinpoint anytime since there are fatalities, though roughly each spark mining deadliness is preventable. There are really few that we can truly call a fluke,” Oppegard said.

Courtesy Tony Oppegard

Lexington, KY, profession and reserve disciple Tony Oppegard.

Oppegard pronounced correspondence assistance was a proceed MSHA attempted during a George W. Bush administration, with churned results. That eight-year duration saw some improvements in safety. But a epoch was also noted by countless cave disasters, including a Sago disaster in West Virginia and a Darby blast in Kentucky, that together took 17 lives.

The UMWA also voiced doubt about a assistance approach.

“The UMWA is not and never has been in preference of supposed ‘compliance assistance’ programs, and this one is no different,” UMWA President Cecil Roberts wrote.

Roberts pronounced MSHA is giving cave operators space to name who can attend in a program, something he warned will criticise efficacy of reserve training. And he complained that a MSHA change came though notice to a union.

“Despite a 127-year story of traffic with cave reserve issues and building solutions to those issues, MSHA unsuccessful to strech out to us during all with honour to building this program.”

An MSHA orator declined an talk ask for this story. There are indications that a group is stability with some Obama-era initiatives dictated to boost coercion and inspections.

For example, as of July, MSHA was still regulating a targeted coercion module determined in 2010 in a arise of a mining disaster during a Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Those “impact inspections” concentration on mines that consequence increasing group courtesy and enforcement and enclosed inspections in Kentucky and West Virginia this year.

Courtesy Celeste Monforton

Work reserve researcher Celeste Monforton.

Celeste Monforton is a former MSHA central and occupational health researcher during George Washington University and Texas State University. She pronounced a change between despotic coercion and assistance by a group will change with opposite administrations.

“You know one administration, a Democratic administration, is meddlesome in coercion and wants to do enforcement. And a Republican administration wants to do correspondence assistance,” she said. “But in existence my knowledge has been that administrations do both.”

Monforton pronounced correspondence assistance is an critical partial of what regulators do. However, it should not take a place of a cave inspections compulsory by a law.

“What we wish to equivocate and what we need to compensate courtesy to is if correspondence assistance is supplanting enforcement,” Monforton said.

Monforton combined that while any genocide is one too many, a longer statistical trend still shows softened reserve over a years.

State Changes

McAteer pronounced West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is singly positioned to help. The administrator has been concerned in a spark mining attention for about 24 years.

“So he is in a privately well-suited position to be means to make that turnaround, since others who competence not have a credentials don’t have that kind of attention hit and he’s in a position to make that happen,” McAtteer said.

One of a cave fatalities this year happened in a spark cave owned by Justice’s family. And MSHA has released citations for reserve violations. The administrator did not respond to requests for comment.


On Feb. 27, 2017, a 43-year-old plant attendant was fatally harmed when he fell about 19 feet onto a relocating exclude belt. The plant was found in a send chute, approximately 55 feet down a belt from where he had fallen.

Some changes during a state spin have drawn critique from reserve advocates. A new law this year disbanded a Kentucky mining house obliged for reviewing training and reserve regulations for spark miners.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Communications Director John Mura pronounced a mining house was abolished in sequence to equivocate duplication of bid and to save money. He pronounced a duties are still carried out by another body.

Legislators in Kentucky and West Virginia considered, though after incited down, bills that would have reduced a volume of state cave inspections.

Stand Down For Safety

McAteer pronounced a stream boost in fatalities is reason for a mining attention to stop prolongation temporarily in sequence to re-evaluate reserve procedures.


On Feb. 3, 2017, a 54-year-old lorry motorist postulated hip and leg fractures when he jumped from a cab of his lorry as it was overturning. He died 7 days after due to complications compared with his injuries.

“By carrying a mount down, where we for hours or for a day stopped prolongation and we say, ‘Let’s take a demeanour during this, given we don’t wish to remove any some-more miners,” McAteer said. “We know how to cave safely and we need to be addressing if there are problems that stand up.”

McAteer pronounced a renewed concentration on reserve is generally critical if a Trump administration aims to perform a oath to ramp adult spark production.

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