Mining deaths on rise, 22 in first half of 2014

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Twenty-two miners were killed in accidents during the first half of 2014, compared to 18 in the first half of 2013 and 19 for the same period in 2012.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration on Monday released its mid-year summary of fatal accidents. The report shows eight coal miners died in the first half of the year. While that number is about on par with recent years, the number of workers killed in other types of mining, 14, prompted safety officials to launch a new training and enforcement effort in May.

The years 2011 and 2012 saw only 16 deaths total in non-coal mining operations for each year. That number increased to 22 last year. It is on course to spike even higher this year, something mine safety officials hope to prevent.

The non-coal accidents occurred in mining operations for materials such as gypsum, silver and gravel.

Both the coal and non-coal fatalities included miners who were pinned or crushed by heavy equipment or entangled in machinery. Others fell or were struck by falling objects. One was killed by an explosion involving equipment.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main said in a statement that fatalities are preventable. He said the deaths should serve as a wake-up call to “keep safety at the forefront.”

MSHA recorded 20 coal mining deaths in 2013 and 2012, and 21 deaths in 2011.

Phil Smith, a spokesman for United Mine Workers, which represents coal miners, said the eight deaths recorded so far this year are not unexpected but are still “eight too many.”

“It’s very rare there’s an actual accident underground,” he said. “People suffer fatal injuries from unsafe practices.”

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