Two coal miners killed on the job in 2020 in West Virginia

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WASHINGTON. D.C.–The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration says there were 29 mining deaths in the United States in 2020 with five of those occurring during coal mining activities.

The agency said it was the sixth straight year that mining deaths were under 30. MSHA described the number of coal mining deaths as an “historic low.”

The agency said two of the five deaths were in West Virginia.

According to investigators, a trucking company employee working above ground at the Patriot Coal Federal No. 2 property near Fairview was killed on Feb. 27, 2020, while helping to position a low-boy trailer.

The second death came on Nov. 23, 2020, when Taylor Halstead, 20, of Bob White, died after an injury at Panther Mining LLC’s American Eagle Mine near Dawes in Kanawha County.

MSHA said Thursday it saw a significant decrease last year in mining fatalities involving vehicle-on-vehicle collisions, failure to use a seat belt, and conveyor belt accidents. The agency credited a multi-faceted education program.

“In 2020 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration focused on improving safety in several areas, including falls from height and truck-loading operations,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health David G. Zatezalo said in a news release. “We also focused on chronic problem areas, such as disproportionate accidents among contractors and inexperienced miners. In 2019, contractor deaths accounted for 41 percent of deaths at mines. In 2020, they were 28 percent.”

MSHA inspectors also dealt with COVID-19. Between Between March 1 and Dec. 31, the agency issued 195 citations for sanitary conditions that it said could have contributed to the spread of the virus.

MSHA said all underground mines were inspected four times last year and all surface mines twice. The agency said there are 1,000 coal mines in the U.S. employing a workforce that numbers 64,000.