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U.S. mine deaths fall to record low

Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The number of miners killed on the job in the United States fell to 51 in 2008, the fewest number of deaths since officials began keeping records nearly a century ago, according to preliminary data released by federal regulators Thursday.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration reported that 29 of the deaths occurred in coal mines, down from 34 in 2007; and 22 were in copper, stone and other types of mines, down from 33 in 2007.

The previous low was 55 in 2004.

Revamped safety laws and beefed-up enforcement were among factors that led to the overall decline in mining deaths, federal mine safety chief Richard Stickler told the Associated Press.

Mine safety became a focal point in 2006 and 2007 following a series of mining disasters in Kentucky, Utah and West Virginia. In 2006, 73 miners were killed, including 12 who died in a methane explosion at the Sago Mine in West Virginia and five who died in a similar explosion at the Darby Mine in Kentucky. In 2007, 67 miners died, including six who were killed in the collapse of the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah.

Coal states reacted by revamping their mine safety laws and Congress toughened federal rules as well.

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