U.S. coal mining death surge, but remain low in Wyoming

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Cheyenne, Wyo. - Coal mining deaths surged in the U.S. in 2017, one year after they hit a record low.

In Wyoming and Colorado, there was one death each related to coal mining. Across the nation, coal mines recorded 15 deaths last year, including eight in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, and also one each in Alabama, Montana, and Pennsylvania.

The Wyoming death occurred in September when Jaime Olivas was hit by a falling slab of coal in an underground mine near Rock Springs.

The Associated Press says, "eight coal mining deaths this year involved hauling vehicles and two others involved machinery. None were attributed to an explosion of gas or dust. According to MSHA data, seven of the eight U.S. coal mining fatalities in the first half of 2017 involved miners with one year or less experience at the mine, and six involved miners with one year or less experience on the job. In June, MSHA announced an initiative focusing on less experienced miners, including improved mine operators' training programs."

In 2016 there were eight U.S. coal mine deaths. None were in the state of Wyoming, however four died in the Cowboy state between 2013 and 2014.

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