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Mining deaths at all-time low

Mining deaths in Louisiana and across the U.S. are at an all-time low, according to federal statistics. However, it has taken decades of work by safety advocates and lawmakers to clean up the industry.

The first government agency tasked with reducing mine accidents and illnesses was the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1910, but it took a disaster more than 50 years later to force the government to enact major mine safety legislation. In 1968, a coal mine in West Virginia exploded, taking the lives of 78 workers. In response to the tragedy, Congress passed the Coal Mine Safety Act of 1977, which created the Mine Safety and Health Administration. When the law was created, there were around 311 annual mining deaths. That number dipped to 12 in 2016.

One of the most significant safety campaigns MSHA has launched is the End Black Lung Disease initiative. In 1968, approximately 76,000 miners died from the condition, which is caused by exposure to coal dust. Although that number has dropped in recent years, black lung disease is still a significant issue, and MSHA is pushing education and training campaigns to combat the problem. The agency has also worked to reduce the number of mines with repeated safety violations. In 2010, there were 51 chronically non-compliant mines. In 2016, there were zero.

While mine safety has greatly improved, many miners are injured in workplace accidents across the U.S. each day. Most injured miners are eligible to receive medical benefits and wage replacement payments through their employer's workers' compensation insurance. Some workers find it helpful to seek the advice of an attorney before they file their claim.

Source: Mining Global, "The Mine Safety Health Administration: Safety in numbers", Dale Benton, April 8, 2017

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