Three coal miners have been killed in separate mining accidents so far in 2016 after last year marked the safest year in mining history, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
MHSA Assistant Secretary Joseph Main called the deaths “troubling” in a statement Wednesday. The miners, ranging in age from 31 to 52, were killed between Jan. 4 and Jan. 19. The accidents occurred in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
This marks the greatest number of coal mine accidents in such a time frame in 10 years, when 15 miners died between Jan. 2, 2006 and Jan. 19, 2006. The news comes after 2015 saw the lowest number of coal fatalities ever, with 11 total coal mining deaths, according to the MSHA.
“In just the first three weeks of 2016, and after the safest year in mining history, the coal industry has experienced three fatalities in three separate mining accidents, the highest number of coal accidents to occur in the same time period since January 2006,” said Main in a statement.
The MSHA also issued an alert calling for increased focus on miner health and safety measures. The alert cited precautions such as never working on a moving conveyor belt and thoroughly examining work area conditions before beginning work.
“In light of declining coal market conditions, we all need to be mindful that effective safety and health protections that safeguard our nation’s coal miners need to be in place every day at every mine in the country,” Main said in a statement.