CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia led the nation in 2012 with seven coal-mining deaths, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration. The fatality count for 2012 was one more than the six West Virginia coal miners killed in 2011.
Nationwide, 19 coal miners were killed in on-the-job accidents last year, down slightly from 21 coal fatalities in 2011. The nation also recorded 17 metal and nonmetal mining deaths in 2012, up from 17 the previous year, according to MSHA data.
Across all types of mining, the industry's total fatality count in 2012 was 36, down from 37 in 2011, and half of the 71 who died in 2010, when 29 coal miners died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.
Alpha Natural Resources accounted for three of West Virginia's mining deaths last year, and CONSOL Energy accounted for two. The other deaths occurred at mines owned by Coal River Mining LLC and Arch Coal.
Kentucky had the second most coal-mining deaths last year, with four. Alabama had two, and Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia had one each.
West Virginia has led the nation in coal-mining fatalities in five of the last dozen years. Kentucky led the nation six times during that period, and Utah led once, in 2007, when nine workers died in the Crandall Canyon Mine Disaster.
On Dec. 21, the Obama administration outlined new timelines for several key mine safety initiatives, as part of the publication of the government-wide semi-annual regulatory agenda.
The MSHA regulatory agenda says the agency will finalize by May a proposed rule to require "proximity detection" devices that would shut down certain underground mining equipment when workers get too close, to help prevent injuries and deaths caused by collisions.
MSHA also says it will finalize by June its long-awaited rule aimed at reducing miners' exposure to coal dust that causes deadly black lung disease.