Department of Environmental Protection secretary John Hanger said Monday that Pennsylvania’s last coal death occurred in June 2009 and the last non-coal miner was killed in July 2009 at an industrial minerals mine.
"The fact that we have gone 18 months without a fatality in Pennsylvania's coal and industrial mineral mines is a testament to the commitment of everyone involved,” he said.
“From miners and supervisors to mine owners, union leaders and the mine safety staff here at DEP, everyone is working to ensure Pennsylvania's mines are the safest in the world."
Hanger pointed to 2008 amendments to the state’s Bituminous Coal Mine Safety Act for the safety improvements, as the changes – the first major updates to the act in half a century – fostered a “culture of safety” in the coal mining industry.
As part of the changes, mine owners and operators have become primarily responsible for safety compliance. In addition, the DEP can now assess fines and penalties for noncompliance.
Before the amendments, only individuals such as mine foremen and supervisors could be held accountable for accidents on mine property.
The reworking also removed antiquated language in the Mine Safety Act and corrected an inflexible regulatory structure which was highlighted after the Quecreek mine accident in 2002.
A seven-member Coal Mine Safety Board was established to quickly implement the regulatory changes. The group had its first meeting in January 2009.
Pennsylvania, the fourth-largest coal-producing state behind Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky, has been mining since the late 1700s. About 40% of its operations are underground bituminous mines.