Mining has always been a difficult, dangerous occupation. Generations of West Virginians know this well, having grown up with family members in the industry. Industry reforms and innovations have gradually made the field safer — if not actually “safe.”

According to the United States Department of Labor, only two dozen people died in mining accidents in 2019 (although a couple more deaths may be added to that tally pending a review). The most recent reports indicate that:

  • 11 of the victims were coal miners, including four each in Kentucky and West Virginia, two in Pennsylvania and one in Illinois
  • The total number of coal mine-related deaths was the same in 2018, indicating that the numbers are reflective of ongoing efforts to reduce the danger workers face.
  • The lowest number of mining deaths recorded was in 2016, which only saw eight fatalities overall.

Officials credit the decrease in mining-related deaths largely to education campaigns that have focused on conveyor belt safety inside mines and reducing the number of vehicle-to-vehicle collisions. Some of the numbers have dropped, also, simply because coal mining in the Appalachian area has been in decline as an industry for a while now. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of workers employed by coal companies has been virtually halved.

While these numbers are encouraging about worker safety, it’s important to remember that coal miners can suffer all kinds of debilitating accidents. Death isn’t the only possible outcome of poor safety measures or lax oversight inside a mine. If you were injured in a mining accident or your loved one was killed, it’s important to find out everything you can about your legal right to compensation.