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Mining deaths at record low

Miners know they're entering an inherently dangerous profession, but it's much less dangerous than it used to be.

And last year may have been one of the safest years on record for miners. It certainly looks that way from fatality data, with a record low of 25 mining fatalities reported by the Mine Safety and Health Administration during 2016.

There were about 10 times as many annual deaths 50 years ago, and 100 times as many a century ago, according to the Philadelphia Tribune.

Of course, for anyone affected by these deaths, 25 deaths is still 25 too many. Of these deaths, one occurred in a Pennsylvania coal mine - again, one too many. Still, there's little doubt that mining is much safer than it used to be.

The MSHA says that's due to better enforcement, training and outreach on behalf of government regulators and mine operators themselves. It's worth noting that there's also been a drop in mining employment over the past few years, which could contribute a bit to lower overall fatalities as well.

Will these downward trends continue into 2017? There may be some proving ground in Pennsylvania, where three new coal mines are slated to open this year, amid increased demand and hopes of a friendlier regulatory environment under the Trump administration.

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