The number of miners killed on the job in the United States in 2002 fell to the lowest level on record: 67.
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration reported that 27 of the deaths happened in coal mines, down from 42 in 2001, and 40 were in copper, gold, stone and other types of mines, up from 30 in 2001.
The 67 deaths are the lowest number since the federal government began keeping records in 1910. The previous low was last year's 72 deaths.
"Clearly, it's a trend that we wanted to see," said Bruce Watzman, vice president for safety and health with the National Mining Association. "It's a trend we hope and pray for on a daily basis."
Nine people died in Kentucky's coalfields in 2002. West Virginia was second in coal mine fatalities with six. Virginia had five and Pennsylvania three.
Nationally, more than 100 coal miners died in mine accidents each year through the 1970s, but the numbers have declined since then.
Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said the decrease in deaths in 2002 came despite an increase in mining activity.
"It's a combination of better training, better equipment, more conscientious oversight by regulatory agencies and more emphasis on safety by companies," he said. "Our goal is to have zero fatalities, and we're slowly heading toward that goal. The mining industry won't be happy until we reach that goal."