The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced that 2012 had the lowest death and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining, with 36 on-the-job fatalities.
“The final numbers for 2012 show the lowest mining death and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining and find that actions undertaken by MSHA and the mining industry continue to move mine safety in the right direction, with improvements in both death and injury rates and compliance with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, as amended (Mine Act). The mining industry fatality rate in 2012 was .0110 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. The rate of reported injuries was 2.56 per 200,000 hours worked,” MSHA said in a statement.
For the first time, MSHA included contractor fatality and injury data and 2012 saw the lowest fatalities and injuries for contractors in both coal and metal and nonmetal since MSHA began keeping separate contractor rates in 1983. Of the 36 mining deaths in 2012, five were contractors.
“These reductions improve upon last year’s record historical low rates and reflect a continuing downward trend in both fatal and nonfatal injuries achieved through effective implementation of the Mine Act,” MSHA assistant secretary Joe Main said in a statement. “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 towards those goals.”
The final numbers include one more fatality than was announced in preliminary totals in April. MSHA said it added the Dec. 28 death of a coal miner at the Choctaw Mine in Walker County, AL.
MSHA noted that the number of mines in the U.S. decreased slightly in 2012, from 14,176 in 2011 to 14,093, while the number of miners employed in the industry increased to 387,878 from 381,209 in 2011. Compliance with the Mine Act and regulations continued to improve in 2012. The number of citations and orders MSHA issued fell from 156,802 in 2011 to 139,770 in 2012, an 11 percent decrease. This continues the overall trend, with an 18 percent reduction in violations cited by MSHA since 2010. As a result, penalties for violations dropped. Penalty assessments dropped from $160.8 million in 2011 to $120.5 million in 2012.
In coal mining, 20 miners died in on-the-job accidents, one less than 2011. The fatality rate was .0159 deaths per 200,000 hours worked, also the second lowest ever recorded. The rate of reported injuries was 3.16 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 93,330 in 2011 to 79,250 in 2012, a 15 percent reduction. The coal mining industry saw some decrease in the number of mines (from 1,973 to 1,871) and in coal production (from 1,095 to 1,018 Mt) between 2011 and 2012. While the number of coal miners also decreased, from 143,437 in 2011 to 137,650 in 2012, the number of coal miners was still the second highest for any year since 1994.
In the metal and nonmetal mining industries there was a record low fatality rate of .0079 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. 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 also experienced a continued reduction in citations and orders, dropping from 63,472 in 2011 to 60,520 in 2012, a 5 percent 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 250,228 in 2012.
These figures represent the final year-end data for 2012.