After seeing a record low of eight deaths in 2016, the U.S. coal mining industry has witnessed a dramatic rise in 2017. In that year, there were 15 deaths, with eight occurring in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, and one each in Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. South Carolina has insignificant coal reserves.
Eight of the deaths involved hauling vehicles, while machinery contributed to two deaths. Though gas and dust explosions are a well-known hazard, having caused the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010, they did not lead to any fatalities in 2017. In addition, there were 13 fatalities in non-coal mines, such as sand, limestone, and gravel mines.
In 1966, there were more than 230 coal mining deaths. The decrease is partly due not to better technology and safety guidelines but to a lack of coal mining jobs. Dozens of mines have been closed in the Appalachian region; however, 2017 did see a turnaround in coal production, which may explain the increase. The southern region of West Virginia saw the greatest increase, which was 25 percent by most estimates. Across the U.S., there was a 8.9 percent increase. The Mine Safety and Health Administration is looking into ways to keep coal miners safer.
Regardless of whose fault a mining accident was, injured victims will generally be entitled to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. These can include the payment of medical expenses and in some cases the provision of a percentage of wages lost during the recovery period. An attorney can often be of assistance in the preparation of the claim documentation.