LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — National coal mining deaths dropped by more than half the year after the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia, from 48 to 21, and there were 20 each in 2012 and 2013, and a record low of 15 so far in 2014. The U.S. averaged about 30 coal mining deaths a year in the five years before Upper Big Branch. Injuries in coal mines have been on the decline each year since 2007, when there were 4.2 incidents per 200,000 hours worked. Last year the rate was 3.1.
Inspectors issued 63,493 citations or orders in coal mines last year, a 34 percent drop from 2010, when 96,390 were written. U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Joe Main says that's a sign of improved compliance, even though the rash of mine closings in Appalachia has left federal officials with fewer sites to watch over.