More people died in the coal mining industry in 2017 than in the previous three years, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
A total of 15 miners died on the job in 2017 compared with eight in 2016, the fewest mining deaths in recorded history.
The 15th coal mining death of 2017 occurred early Friday morning at a Revelation Energy mine in Fayette County in southern West Virginia, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported.
Thurman Watts, 34, died when a dozer he was operating traveled over the high wall.
“[I]t’s heartbreaking when we hear that one of our coal miners has lost their life while on the job,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said in a statement on Friday. “Please join us in praying for the family, friends, and co-workers of Thurman A. Watts and all of our hard working and dedicated coal miners in West Virginia.”
The Hill adds:
The Senate last month approved David Zatezalo, a former coal mining executive, to lead MSHA, the main agency responsible for coal mine safety.
Zatezalo faced numerous questions about his own safety record throughout the confirmation process. He was previously head of Rhino Resources when MSHA took multiple enforcement actions against the company. Zatezalo sought to assure senators that he would take strong enforcement actions when necessary.