US coal mining deaths surge in 2017 after hitting record low

Written by John Raby/Associated Press | Jan 2, 2018 4:13 PM

A worker runs a miner machine at a coal mine in Friedens, Somerset County. Corsa Coal Corp. says the mine will create 70 to 100 new jobs and produce some 400,000 tons of metallurgical coal a year. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)

(Charleston, W.Va.) -- Coal mining deaths surged in the U.S. in 2017, one year after they hit a record low.

The nation's coal mines recorded 15 deaths last year, including eight in West Virginia. Kentucky had two deaths, and there were one each in Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. In 2016 there were eight U.S. coal mine deaths.

West Virginia has led the nation in coal mining deaths in six of the past eight years. That includes 2010, when 29 miners were killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia.

Retired coal company executive David Zatezalo of Wheeling was appointed in September by President Donald Trump as the new chief of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

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