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COAL: Ancient Gift Serving Modern Man
American Coal Foundation

The People Who Mine Coal

Safety in coal mining is a prominent and highly regulated aspect of the business, and one that requires great diligence and close cooperation by management, the government, and the workforce. The Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 is the major legislative authority for a host of federal regulations governing safety in the industry.

Industry statistics show a significant reduction in the number of injury-producing accidents and, most dramatic of all, the lowest number of fatal accidents in history at the same time that the amount coal being mined has gone up sharply. Improved safety, more advanced technology, and better labor relations have helped make U.S. coal mines the safest and most productive in the world.

As the technology of mining coal progressed, machines were developed to handle some of the operations. That in itself has made the industry a safer place to work. At the same time, coal mining companies are quicker to recognize that a safe and healthful work place is a more efficient and productive one, so they put a lot of emphasis on accident prevention, safety inspections and employee training.

The contemporary coal industry workforce is a continually evolving reflection of our society as a whole. According to a Bureau of Mines survey, the average coal miner is 39 years old and has 11 years of experience, eight years with the same company. Three-fourths of all coal miners have a high school or better education. There are about 3,300 women among the industry's workforce of 130,000.

The majority of all coal miners in the United States are members of the United Mine Workers of America. The remaining are members of other unions or work at non-union operations. Most of the Union members work at coal mines covered by wage agreements, which establish wage and benefit standards that place coal miners among the highest paid industrial workers in the country. A coal miner's average annual income is $35,000 a year, and health, welfare and other benefits are comprehensive.

Chart of income for various industries (Dollars Per Hour)
  1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988
Coal 10.86 11.89 12.66 13.72 14.80 15.24 15.39 15.77 15.94
Steel 11.39 12.60 13.35 12.89 12.98 13.33 13.73 13.77 13.97
Auto 9.85 11.02 11.62 12.14 12.73 13.39 13.45 13.53 14.00
Chemicals 8.30 9.12 9.96 10.58 11.07 11.56 11.98 12.36 12.67
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Last Updated: Thursday, 15-Dec-2005 11:50:20 EST