Thirty-six miners died over the calendar year, 19 in coal and 17 in metal/nonmetal mining, making it the second-lowest annual fatality total on record – one more than the 2009 historic low.
The state with the most mining deaths was coal-rich West Virginia with seven, followed by five in Kentucky and three each in New York and Alabama.
The states of Montana and Florida each had two mining-related fatalities. Accidents in 2012 in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia, claimed one miner each.
Utah, Pennsylvania and top coal producer Wyoming were fatality-free for the year.
MSHA confirmed the leading cause of fatal incidents in mining over the past year was powered haulage, which took the lives of 10 miners. Second place was machinery-related incidents and slip/falls, with six deaths each.
Rib falls killed three miners in 2012.
One of the most startling statistics was that 25% of the deaths recorded in mining were supervisors. The agency said the nine killed was a much higher percentage than in past years and was a cause for concern.
Five miners who died at coal operations had one year or less experience at the mine, MSHA said, and eight slain miners had one year or less experience at the job or task they were performing when they died.
At metal/non-metal operations, three of the miners killed had less than one year of experience at the mine. Five miners had less than one year of experience at the job or task they were performing.
MSHA assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main did acknowledge that fewer miners lost their lives but more work remained.
“While mining deaths and injuries – due to the efforts of all in the mining industry – have reached historic lows, more actions are needed to prevent mining injuries, illnesses and deaths,” he said.
“These numbers underscore that effective and appropriate training – particularly task training – needs to be provided to miners before they perform a new task.”
Main pointed out that pinning, crushing and striking accidents in underground coal mines continued to cause significant numbers of injuries and fatalities. Between 1984 and 2012, 73 deaths occurred – including 33 associated with continuous mining machines, incidents that could have been prevented by proximity detection.
“MSHA estimates that using a proximity detection system could have prevented several non-fatal injuries associated with underground mining machines,” Main said.
“MSHA believes that in 2012 three deaths at coal mines could have been prevented if these systems had been in place.”