The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported in early April 2013 that preliminary data indicate that the mine fatality rate in 2012 was the lowest in the history of U.S. mining, with 0.0107 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. The rate of reported injuries was 2.56 per 200,000 hours worked, also the lowest rate on record.
“While one death is too many, and there are still improvements needed to reduce injuries, it is important to take a moment and acknowledge progress toward those goals,” the MSHA statement said. “These improvements are the result of the work and dedication of all in the mining community, including MSHA, mine operators, miners and their representatives, and others.”
Although the number of mines in the United States decreased slightly to 14,058 in 2012 from 14,176 in 2011, the number of miners employed in the industry increased to 387,671 from 381,209.
Thirty-five miners died on the job in 2012, two fewer than in 2011 and equal to the record low number of mining deaths set in 2009. With the increase in employment compared to 2009, this resulted in a record low fatality rate.
The number of citations and orders MSHA issued fell 11% from 157,052 in 2011 to 140,007 in 2012. “These decreases in deaths, injuries, and safety and health violations reflect improved compliance by operators and safer working environments for miners,” MSHA said.
The metal and nonmetal mining industries established a record low fatality rate of 0.0080 deaths per 200,000 hours worked in 2012. Sixteen miners died in on-the-job accidents, equaling the record low set in 2011. The reported injury rate of 2.19 per 200,000 hours worked was also a record low.
Metal and nonmetal mines experienced a continued reduction in citations and orders, dropping from 63,601 in 2011 to 60,680 in 2012, a 5% reduction.
While the number of metal and nonmetal mines remained steady in 2012 at 12,193, the number of miners increased from 237,772 in 2011 to 250,310 in 2012.
In coal mining, 19 miners died in on-the-job accidents, the second fewest ever. The fatality rate was 0.0151 deaths per 200,000 hours worked, also the second lowest ever recorded. The rate of reported injuries was 3.15 per 200,000 hours worked, the lowest injury rate ever recorded in coal mining.
The number of citations and orders issued to coal mine operators declined from 93,451 in 2011 to 79,327 in 2012, a 15% reduction.
The coal mining industry saw some decrease in the number of mines, from 1,973 to 1,865, and in coal production, from 1,095 million to 1,017 million st, between 2011 and 2012. While the number of coal miners also decreased, from 143,437 in 2011 to 137,361 in 2012, the number of coal miners was still the second highest for any year since 1994.