Because of the state’s long coal mining history, residents of West Virginia have a vested interest in knowing the main reasons for fatal mining-related accidents. Annual fatalities in mining have nearly doubled in the U.S. since 2005. Though the figure is far less than it was at the beginning of the 20th century, even one death is too many.
Two natural chemical compounds are the reason behind most mining fatalities. Methane gas is often trapped in coal and released as coal is extracted. Coal dust is, of course, a natural byproduct of mined coal. The problem is that both substances are highly explosive.
An explosion can be triggered by flame, electrical equipment or spark. Detection methods must be precise to avoid dangerous levels of methane or coal dust and proper ventilation must be used to dissipate accumulations of the explosive substances.
The use of explosives in mining is a necessary evil in the industry. To ensure that explosives are used safely, extreme precautions must be taken. For surface mine accidents, flying debris is the most common cause. Failing to keep a safe distance from the blast area or a too powerful charge are often the reasons for this type of death.
In underground mining, premature explosions and misfired explosions are the leading causes of death. Premature blasts are usually caused by human error, either setting a faulty charge or the use of defective equipment. A misfire might occur if some explosive material wasn’t expended on the initial blast.
Most mining deaths are preventable with the exercise of due care. When a miner is killed because of the human error of another, surviving family members may need assistance. A personal injury attorney can help the survivors to obtain justice.