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Coal mining deaths increased in 2017

In 2017, coal production spiked in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. Unfortunately, coal mining deaths also increased over the same period.

According to federal statistics, 15 coal miners died in U.S. mines last year, compared to eight in 2016. West Virginia led the nation with eight miner fatalities, and Kentucky came in second with two fatalities. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming reported one miner fatality each. Accidents involving hauling vehicles killed eight coal miners, and machinery accidents killed two others.

West Virginia has reported the most miner deaths six times since 2009. In 2010, 29 coal miners were killed in a mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in the southern area of the state. Last fall, President Trump appointed David Zatezalo, former chairman of coal company Rhino Resources, as the new head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The move was criticized by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said he did not believe Zatezalo was a good fit for the job. U.S. coal production increased by 8.9 percent in 2017. Production jumped by 16 percent in West Virginia, 11.6 percent in Pennsylvania and 10.7 percent in Wyoming.

Coal miners who suffer workplace injuries are generally eligible to file for workers' compensation benefits through their employer's insurance. If approved, these benefits pay a worker's medical bills and provide a portion of their salary while they are unable to work. Some workers choose to consult with an attorney before filing their claim to ensure it is properly prepared and filed within the required time period.

Source: USA Today, "Coal mining deaths surge in 2017 after hitting record low", John Raby, Jan. 3, 2018

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