In 2016, there were eight deaths in the U.S. coal mining industry, which was a record low. In 2017, however, the number rose to 15 deaths, with eight in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, and one each in Montana, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alabama, and Wyoming. None were recorded in California. Eight of the deaths were connected to hauling vehicles, and two to machinery. Gas and dust explosions, which are frequent occurrences, did not contribute to the numbers in 2017.
The increase may be attributed to a turnaround in coal production, especially in the Appalachian region. West Virginia saw a 16 percent increase in coal production. At the same time, it has seen the most coal mining deaths in any state for six of the past eight years. Wyoming is the nation's top producer of coal and saw a 10.7 percent increase in coal production.
Still, the number of coal mining workers has dropped significantly. The Energy Information Administration records about 92,000 mining workers in the U.S. in 2011 and about 52,000 in 2016. The Mine Safety and Health Administration states that the generally low number of fatalities is due to tougher enforcement of mining safety regulations. The agency is, however, looking into ways to prevent miners from breathing in coal and rock dust and getting black lung disease.
When unsafe working conditions are caused by an employer's negligence or reckless disregard of safety rules and regulations, victims could suffer serious injuries and occupational diseases. People who have been harmed in such a manner might want to meet with an attorney in order to see what options they might have.