Mining Deaths Drop to New Low in 2001

Despite a year that saw 13 miners die in an explosion in September 2001 at the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 Mine in Brookwood, Ala., fatal injuries at mines declined to a historic new low last year.

Preliminary data released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) indicates that 72 miners died while on the job in 2001, 13 fewer that in 2000 and the lowest figure on record.

"A good year would be zero fatalities, because even one death is unacceptible," admitted MSHA Administrator Dave D. Lauriski. "We must keep working together to reduce mine accidents in 2002."

Last year, Lauriski challenged mine operators and employees to reduce mine accidents by 15 percent each year. "Preliminary numbers indicate that the mining industry met that challenge in 2001," he added.

The nation's metal and nonmetal mining sector set a historic low record with 30 fatalities for 2001, compared with 47 in 2000. The previous low for that sector of the mining industry was 40, set in 1994. The metal and nonmetal mining sector produces metals such as copper and gold, and minterals such as salt, stone, sand and gravel.

Lauriski praised that industry sector saying, "The metal and nonmetal mining industry has shown what can be done."

The decreases logged by the metal and nonmetal sector were slightly offset by an increase of four fatalities in the coal sector. Deaths in that sector climbed to 42 in 2001. Had the Brookwood explosion not occured, there would have been 29 deaths in the coal sector, a decrease of nine from the 2000 total of 38.

"The Brookwood accident was heartbreaking because miners lost their lives in a heroic attempt to save the lives of others," said Lauriski. "We will determine the cause and share the information with everyone in the mining industry to help prevent future tragedies."

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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