The number of U.S. mining deaths last year was the second-lowest reported since statistics were first recorded in 1910, the U.S. Department of Labor says.
Work-related accidents took the lives of 37 miners in 2011. That includes two men who died in separate accidents in North Idaho’s Silver Valley.
There were 21 coal mining and 16 metal/nonmetal mining fatalities last year, compared with 48 and 23, respectively, in 2010, the Mine Safety and Health Administration reported.
Kentucky had the most mining deaths – eight – in 2011, followed by West Virginia with six and Ohio with three. All but one of those deaths occurred in coal mines.
Locally, two miners working for Hecla Mining Co. died at the Lucky Friday Mine, a silver mine in Mullan, Idaho. Larry “Pete” Marek, 53, was crushed under a 25-foot-high rock pile when his work area collapsed April 15. Brandon Lloyd Gray, 26, was buried in rubble Nov. 17 while trying to dislodge jammed rock. He died two days later.
Together with one Idaho mining death in 2010, these were the first mine fatalities in the Gem State since three reported in 2001-02.
Washington has had nine fatalities at mining sites since 2001, including one in 2011. James Hussey, 38, of Peck, Idaho, was electrocuted Sept. 13 while working on electrical lines at a gravel crushing plant near Colfax.
Mine accidents have declined dramatically in the U.S. because of decades of research, technology and preventive programs, MSHA officials say.
“The year that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 passed, 273 miners died,” said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “And since that time fatality numbers have steadily declined.”