Fatal injuries at mining operations in the United States last year increased 7 percent above the record low of 1998, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Eighty-seven miners died in on-the-job accidents in 1999, compared with the all-time low of 80 deaths reported during 1998.
In the nation's coal mines, 34 miners died in fatal accidents during 1999 compared to 29 in 1998. In metal and nonmetal mining, 53 workers were victims of fatal accidents last year, up from 51 deaths the previous year.
"The loss of any miner is unacceptable," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "We must continue to do everything we can to make this industry safer."
Despite gloomy fatal accident rates this past year, fatality rates throughout the decade have gotten better. The fatality rate between the 1990-94 period and the 1995-99 period improved from an average of 103 deaths to an average of 88 deaths.
"The overall decline in mining deaths is important, but last year's increase shows us that there can never be too much vigilance," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for MSHA.
Preliminary data show that of the 34 accidental coal mining deaths last year, 18 occurred in underground coal mines.
The leading cause of coal mining fatalities were falls of mine roof or rib which accounted for 12 fatalities, followed by powered haulage and machinery accidents with five and four deaths, respectively.
Powered haulage was the leading cause of accidental deaths in the metal and nonmetal mining industry, claiming the lives of 18 miners.
Kentucky and West Virginia had the highest number of fatal coal mining accident with nine each. Virginia followed with four mining deaths in 1999.
Nevada led the nation with nine metal and nonmetal fatalities. Alabama, Indiana, Arizona, Kansas and Mississippi were next with three deaths each during 1999.