The number of mining deaths in 2016 is the lowest ever recorded, at 26, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration. This is down from 29 in 2015. It is also only the second year that mining deaths dropped below 30. Currently, approximately 330,000 miners work in more than 13,000 U.S. mines.

Nine of the 26 fatalities occurred in coal mines: four in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, and one each in Alabama, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The leading causes of death were powered haulage and machinery, which accounted for six. In 2015, coal mining deaths fell to 12, which was the previous historic low.

A total of 17 deaths were reported in metal and nonmetal mines in 2016. Mississippi and Texas led with two, followed by one each in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington. The leading cause of death in these mines was machinery accidents, at four, followed by powered haulage, at three. None of the 17 deaths occurred in underground mining operations. In 2015, 17 miners died in the metal and nonmetal sector.

“While these deaths show that more needs to be done to protect our nation’s miners, we have reached a new era in mine safety in the past few years,” said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Each year since 2009, injury rates have dropped, and the number of mining deaths and fatality rates were less than in all prior years in history except in 2010, when the Upper Big Branch mine disaster occurred.”

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