The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has reported that 2020 saw a historic low number of coal mining fatalities nationwide, even amid health risks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MSHA reported there were 29 mining fatalities in 2020, including just five occurring in coal mines. West Virginia was the site of two of those coal mine fatalities, with one occurring at a closed mine.
“With 2020 and the national pandemic presenting unique workplace challenges, the men and women who extract world quality coals from beneath our state deserve recognition for West Virginia recording its safest year on record,” said Chris Hamilton, President of the West Virginia Coal Association. “Even though we mined fewer man hours during 2020, implementing newly designed safety precautions to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 at the mine level created disruptions of normal operations which were controlled and managed by the industry’s mine safety professionals”.
Hamilton also credited Governor Justice and his mine safety chief Eugene White as playing a major role in the State’s improved mine safety performance record. “Kudos to Governor Justice for his personal attention and dedication of resources to this critical part of mining,” said Hamilton. “The Governor and Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training director Eugene White work tirelessly to prevent and reduce mining accidents”.
After years of decline, coal production plummeted further amid the pandemic in 2020. Coal production fell 24% in 2020 due to less power sector demand with low natural gas prices, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
West Virginia had just under 14,000 coal mining employees in 2019, according to the EIA’s annual coal report Released in October.