2013 saw uptick in deadly mine accidents

Forty-two miners were killed last year in work-related accidents, an increase from 36 fatalities the year before, according to figures released Monday by the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

The uptick is owed to a surge of deaths during final three months of 2013, when 15 miners were killed on the job.

Almost half the deaths – 20 – involved coal miners, while the remaining 22 happened at metal or nonmetal mining operations. Machinery and powered haulage equipment were the most common causes of the accidents.

West Virginia had the most coalmine fatalities, with six. Kentucky had the most metal/nonmetal mining deaths, with four.

“Mining deaths are preventable, and those that occurred in 2013 are no exception,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “While we have made a number of improvements and have been moving mine safety in the right direction, the increased number of metal/nonmetal deaths makes clear we need to do more to protect our nation’s miners.”

The new data comes as the agency is working to finalize a slate of regulations designed to protect miners.

The measures include draft regulations meant to protect workers from mobile underground equipment that “can pin, crush, or strike” miners and give regulators more authority to issue civil penalties for safety violations.

The agency is also working on a final rule to limit miners’ exposure to coal dust.

The safety push follows the 2010 blast at West Virginia’s Massey Energy’s Big Branch mine — the worst mining disaster in 40 years, with 29 fatalities.