Preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) show that mine fatalities in 2008 fell to an all-time low, recording a 31-percent drop from 2007. Metal/nonmetal mines recorded the lowest level of fatalities in that sector of mining since statistics were first recorded in 1910, and the fatality level in coalmines was the lowest recorded number since 2005.

“Although these numbers demonstrate continuing improvements at our nation’s mines, they also represent significant loss to the families and friends of 51 miners,” says Richard Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “We must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to bring all miners home safe and healthy at the end of every shift.”

About this safety milestone, National Mining Association (NMA) president and CEO Hal Quinn comments, "By achieving our safest year on record in 2008, U.S. mining is demonstrating that significant improvements in workplace health and safety can be realized through the use of advanced technology, enhanced safety training and awareness, sound laws and regulations and sophisticated risk analysis. It takes a commitment by all members of the mining community – operators, miners and regulators – to use all these tools to make good on our shared commitment to achieve zero fatalities and injuries in America’s mines.

"More than $500 million has been invested in new safety and training technology at U.S. mines over the last three years. Mines are promoting mine safety and health as a core value-instilling the values of safety leadership, accountability and personal involvement in every employee and providing them with the training and tools to prevent fatalities, injuries and occupational illnesses. As a result, half of the nation’s mines operate each year without a single lost-time injury.

"The 51 people who lost their lives at U.S. mines in 2008 are a great loss to all of us. Their loss also means we are short of the only goal that counts – zero fatalities. U.S. mining is back on track with year-over-year improvements in mine safety that began in the 1990s – a trend that has resumed in a year with record new employment and resource production."