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Report: 24 US mining deaths in 2019, the lowest number ever

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Two dozen people died in mining accidents in the U.S. last year, the lowest nationwide total ever recorded, according to the Department of Labor.

Among them were 11 deaths in coal mines, including four in West Virginia and four in Kentucky, according to data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The coal mine total matched the tally from 2018.

The mine safety agency said it was reviewing two other deaths that could add to the total of 24.

"The low number of mining deaths last year demonstrates that mine operators have become more proactive in eliminating safety hazards. But I believe we can do even better,” said David Zatezalo, who heads the mine safety agency.

Pennsylvania had two coal mining deaths in 2019, and there was one in Illinois.

Coal fatalities have dropped drastically over the last decade, in part due to a decline in Appalachian mining. Coal employment in that region, mostly concentrated in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, was nearly cut in half between 2011 and 2018. The lowest U.S. coal death total ever recorded was eight in 2016.

The mine safety agency said in a release Thursday that an education campaign focused on reducing vehicle-on-vehicle collisions and conveyor belt accidents in mines helped reduce accidents in those areas.

There were about 250,000 miners at work in approximately 12,000 metal and nonmetal mines in the U.S. in 2019, and about 83,000 miners working in 1,000 coal mines.