Coal Miner Deaths Spike

Aug 4, 2017

A haul truck carries coal out of a pit at the Eagle Butte Coal Mine in Gillette, Wyo.
Credit Madelyn Beck

An accident in Colorado brings the total coal mine deaths this year to 11: more than in all of 2016.

Blue Mountain Energy, Inc. released a statement Aug. 3 saying a worker at their Deserado Mine died the night before. 

"The accident occurred above ground inside the coal processing building, as the worker was attempting to remove a portion of a steel beam," it said.

The employee's name had not been released as of August 4. That accident is now under investigation.

Other than a fatality at a Montana coal mine earlier this summer, all of the other deaths in 2017 occurred in Appalachia. The 11 fatalities represent an increase from last year’s record low of eight deaths.

There was a slump in coal mine employment last year, though, and several hundred miners have returned to work. In 2015, before the slump, there were 12 deaths at coal mines. 

The Mining Health and Safety Administration is taking the increase in fatalities seriously and started and initiative this summer to help train workers who are new to a coal mine. Most of the workers who died had years of experience, but were working at a mine they joined less than a year before.